What does the lockdown exit roadmap mean for English KBB retailers?

The PM in his announcement yesterday of the Government’s lockdown exit roadmap stated that all retail will open no earlier than April 12 in England.

KBB showrooms have been classified by the English government as ‘non-essential’ retail and are currently subject to restrictions that have forced them to close.

During the lockdown, there have been multiple calls to allow independent KBB showrooms to open, as the likes of Howdens, Magnet Trade, Trade Point and other trade-only kitchen and bathroom retailers have been permitted to remain open.

Kbbreview, in conjunction with the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA), has launched the Level Playing Field Campaign, which calls for independent retailers to contact their local MP and Trading Standards, using the templated letters provided, to demand equality with the larger retailers.

The KBSA has been lobbying Trading Standards, MPs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), asking for specific details.

Many independent retailers made changes to their showrooms in 2020 to make them more Covid-secure by increasing health and safety procedures and in some cases opening by appointment only.

Responding to the PM’s route out plan, British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Non-essential shops are ready to reopen and have been investing hundreds of millions on making themselves Covid-secure. Government should remain flexible and allow non-essential retail to reopen as soon as the data suggests it is safe to do so.

“Until it is permitted, retailers will need continued support from Government. We welcome the PM’s call ‘not to pull the rug out’ from under businesses. To this end, the Government must act on three vital issues – rents, rates and grants.”

Currently, domestic refurbishments, which includes kitchen and bathroom installations, is currently allowed in England. The new documentation from the Government does not state that this will change.

British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI) chief executive Damian Walters has called on the Government not to forget tradespeople and independent businesses as the country begins to open up.

Walters said: “Tradespeople and independent businesses in the home improvement industry cannot afford to be ignored by the Government as we finally begin to open up the country.

“Meanwhile, the industry’s independent retailers were forced to close their doors, while larger competitors carried on trading thanks to loopholes that allowed them to be classified as trade suppliers. The loss of business could force many shops to close for good, doing further damage to high streets that are already struggling.

“Our industry is one of the cornerstones of the UK economy, providing products and services in demand across every part of the country and offering a route to skilled work for people from all walks of life. It’s vital that every effort is made to help it quickly recover from the hit it has taken over the past year.”

Walters concluded: “This means immediately declassifying independent kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers from being ‘non-essential’, so that they can compete on a level playing field with large trade suppliers. It also means working with the Scottish Government to ensure that installers in Scotland can get back to work as quickly as possible.”

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