Retail Excellence is urging the Government to set out a clear roadmap for the reopening of non-essential retail outlets with an immediate focus on restoring Click-and-Collect services. 

Duncan Graham, Retail Excellence CEO, said the retail industry needs urgent action now to begin to bring life and hope back to retail. 

He said that non-essential retail has been closed for half of the last 12 months and retailers are close to despair as they face massive financial challenges. 

Mr Graham said that restoring click-and-collect services would be a welcome start and could be restored immediately. 

"It won't sort out all our problems, but it will demonstrate that the Government is tuned in to our difficulties and it will provide some comfort and support to hard pressed retailers," he said. 

Retail Excellence has set out a roadmap to guide policy towards the eventual full reopening of retail.  

It suggests the immediate restoration of Click-and-Collect services, while it says that garden centres could re-open on St Patrick's Day. 

It suggests "appointment" shopping could be made available in all shops by Easter and recommends the full re-opening of the retail sector by May 1.

Duncan Graham also said that there was no evidence that retail had had a significant impact on the transmission of the virus in the community, adding that the artificial distinction between essential and non-essential retail was causing huge problems. 

"There's a fundamental unfairness when you have one type of retailer open and trading and another closed simply because of the type of product they sell," he stated.

"If we're going to be living with Covid for months to come, we need to be more practical, and fair about how we treat similar parts of the economy," he added.

As the anniversary of the first lockdown approaches, Retail Excellence has also today called for further support from Government for retailers. 

Duncan Graham said that nobody could have anticipated then how long this whole nightmare would last. 

"Clearly retailers are going to need extended support including the extension of EWSS and CRSS beyond the end of March and the extension of the rates waiver and the introduction of a comprehensive arbitration system for disputes about unpaid rents," he added.