COVID-19: Retail parks drive growth, workforce slow to return

As the Office for National Statistics continues to chart the impact of the lockdown and social distancing on the UK economy, figures show that, overall, retail footfall continued to increase gradually between 27th July and 2nd August, driven by retail parks.

Many essential shops were allowed to open on 15th June 2020 in England, 12th June in Northern Ireland and 22nd June in Wales. In Scotland, some non-essential shops were allowed to reopen from 29th June, and more from 13th to 15th July.

Commensurate with other reports, the proportion of adults wearing a face covering when leaving the home also continued to increase to 96% from 84% the previous week, according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Of businesses currently trading, the report suggests that 6% of the total workforce had returned to the workplace from furlough in the last two weeks, and 4% had moved from remote working to their usual workplace. Of businesses currently trading or intending to restart in the next two weeks, 4% of the workforce are expected to return from furlough and 4% are expected return from remote working in the next two weeks.

Of all responding businesses:
-90% had been trading for more than the last two weeks
-3% had started trading again within the last two weeks after a pause in trading
-1% had paused trading but intend to restart trading in the next two weeks
-4% had paused trading and do not intend to restart in the next two weeks

Companies House data shows incorporations per working day as lower than usual in April but above usual levels in June and July. Voluntary dissolution applications per working day were also lower than usual throughout April to July.

Of businesses currently trading, 45% reported their turnover exceeded their operating costs, compared with 16% who reported their operating costs exceeded their turnover, according to the Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey.

Other countries have, according to this report, not seen a substantial increase in company closures. Statistics Netherlands reports no substantial change to the level of business bankruptcies in the months to June 2020. The Bank of France reports a substantial fall in corporate bankruptcies in April and May 2020, and Germany's Destatis also reported a fall in business insolvencies in April 2020. Bankruptcies in the US, meanwhile, are only a little higher in May and June than in previous years, although the US system is very different to that of the UK.

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