Covid-19 threatens our high streets just as they were fighting back

David Rudlin

The so-called death of the high street was mostly about the failure of big chains, writes David Rudlin. Until now

It was only two weeks ago that my son Luca, a freelance video maker came back from a meeting with a group of Manchester bar owners reporting that some were in tears. It was the day after the government had told us not to go to bars and restaurants but had not yet told them to close. Sitting in an empty bar on St Patrick’s Day they were in despair, what should they do with their staff, how to pay their suppliers, cover their rent and repay their borrowing? It seemed that the whole sector was on the verge of being wiped out.

They are not alone of course. Town and city centres and high streets across the country are populated with low-margin, cashflow-dependent businesses such as these. The package of government measures and the scheme to furlough staff on 80% salaries will be a massive help, but it is far from clear that it will be enough to save the high street which was already in a severely weakened state.

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