Currys chief executive Alex Baldock believes there are almost no circumstances in which further trading restrictions should be imposed on retailers as the latest Covid variant takes hold. 

Currys chief executive Alex Baldock

Baldock said that he is ready to fight for Currys’ right to continue trading if the government seeks to strengthen rules further following the newly-imposed Plan B regulations that have come into force, including a return of wearing masks in stores and guidance to work from home. 

He said: “We’re not calling out a particular risk from the Plan B restrictions. Clearly, we are staying very close to any potential developments. Any further restrictions on retail would have to have a very powerful public health justification given the safety of retail that has been demonstrated time and time again, not just by us but many other retailers too, that have worked exceptionally hard to make retail a safe environment for colleagues and customers.

”There’s been zero evidence of any significant public health risk for retail remaining open and unrestricted. We would argue very strongly that there would have to be a very clear and unanswerable public health case to impose further restrictions on retail, particularly given how important it is to livelihoods, the economy, to jobs and to taxes.

”Retail is the largest private-sector employer in the country – there are three million jobs and £17bn of tax at stake. We’re in a good position to power further recovery.

“We’re not asking for handouts, we just want to trade and we will make a very strong case to be allowed to do so.”

Currys in a strong position

Currys PC World Store

Should the government’s next steps include further restrictions, Baldock said he believes Currys is still well-positioned to succeed.

He said: ”It’s not so much the mask regulations, but the mood of consumer confidence isn’t helped by Omicron and associated government restrictions. We’re well-equipped to ride that out.

”Our stores, for example, are located on retail parks, which are the part of bricks and mortar retail that have had the most resilient footfall. The second thing to point out is that we have a big online business.

“We’ve shown through the pandemic that if demand drops in one channel, it can rise in another, and we can still register good growth and market share gains overall.”

Currys has nonetheless felt the impact of the latest pandemic developments on sales,  contributing to “softer” festive and Black Friday trading period.

Asked whether Black Friday was “dead”, Baldock was equivocal.

He said: ”There has been a softening in the market that we’ve mitigated in part through strong market share gains. We’ll see [whether Black Friday will continue]. We’re ready either way.

”We’ve had an excellent deal set for customers through this festive period, we’ve still got it, and we’ve still got the stock for customers to fill their Boots in the important trading weeks before Christmas.

“Whether Black Friday itself is bigger or smaller in the future, we don’t know, but we’ll keep a close eye on what customers want and make sure we’re ready to deliver it for them.”

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