The UK's retail industry is likely to face a 'tsunami of closures' if the British government does not extend a moratorium on aggressive debt enforcement, industry lobby group the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said at the weekend.
Citing survey data it said two thirds of British retailers have been told by landlords they will be subject to legal measures to recover unpaid rent from July 1 when the moratorium ends.
The BRC's survey found 80% of tenants said some landlords have given them less than a year to pay back rent arrears.
Without action, the end of the moratorium could see thousands of shops close, said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.
She called on the UK government to allow the rent arrears built up during the pandemic to be ring-fenced and the moratorium on repayment of these debts to be extended to the end of the year.
"With this in place, all parties can work on a sustainable long-term solution, one that shares the pain wrought by the pandemic more equally between landlords and tenants," she said.
"Without action, it will be our city centres, our high streets and our shopping centres that suffer the consequences, holding back the wider economic recovery.”
Many UK retailers deemed "non essential" had to close their stores during multiple COVID-19 lockdowns over the last 15 months, accruing total rent debt of £2.9 billion (€3.37 billion), the BRC said.
Despite a recent improvement in sales, the pandemic has hammered the sector and industry data shows one in seven shops already lie empty, while costs have also risen.
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