Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for click and collect services for non essential retailers to be axed to tackle rising Covid-19 cases.
He has also asked the government to ‘urgently review’ what constitutes essential and non-essential retail and wants stricter guidance on how retailers can operate.
The moves come as part of a raft of measures the London leader and council chiefs would like to see implemented to tackle the Covid-19 crisis in the capital.
Click and collect is increasingly coming under scrutiny with car dealer bosses fearing their lifeline could soon be axed.
Yesterday, John Lewis cancelled all click and collect services in an attempt to help ‘avoid non essential travel’. It said it would only carry out in-home services if ‘essential’ to customers’ wellbeing.
Andrew Murphy, of the John Lewis Partnership, said: ‘We’ve listened carefully to the clear change in tone and emphasis of the views and information shared by the UK’s governments in recent days.
‘We feel it is right for us to take proactive steps to further enhance our Covid security and related operational policies.’
The Times has reported today that more retailers could follow suit, despite the fact that for many it is their only source of income.
Car dealers have been allowed to operate click and collect services since May, when the government confirmed they could continue to do business this way.
Up until that point during the first lockdown only home deliveries were allowed – something that is difficult to do at scale for large groups.
Derren Martin, Cap HPI valuations expert, told Car Dealer that there are already fears in the motor trade that click and collect could be banned. He said it was one of the key concerns dealers had mentioned to his team in the last week.
One car dealer group boss said: ‘While we are all operating safely and within the rules the government has laid out, I think it is only a matter of time before click and collect services are axed by the government.
‘They need to make that decision because in some respects it makes our lives easier – at the moment this lockdown is tough because you have to weigh up what demand there is out there with staffing levels.
‘If click and collect was cancelled by the government it would make the decision to put large numbers of staff back on furlough easier. There’s no doubt it would be a disaster for the industry though.’
The car dealer group boss – who wanted to remain anonymous – said dealers will start feeling ‘compelled to act’ if more retailers cancel click and collect like John Lewis.
The pressure from the government to implement tougher measures saw the London Councils and mayor Sadiq Khan implore Boris Johnson to immediately implement tougher measures.
After a major incident was declared in the capital last Friday due to rising Covid-19 cases, Khan and London Councils chair Georgia Gould have written to the PM calling for measures similar to those in place last March and April.
Don’t include dealers
Sean Kelly, managing director of Vines BMW, said that hardening the rules should not include stopping dealers offering click and collect.
He said: ‘John Lewis cancelling click and collect is a little disingenuous. If you read the detail you can continue to collect orders from Waitrose, so I think it’s an economic decision about staff, furlough and department store opening costs, nothing to do with Covid.
‘Having experienced click and collect as a consumer over the past few weeks, there was no risk involved to me to contract Covid as this was very well managed and controlled.
‘I do not believe that customers are exposed to a greater danger of contracting Covid-19 collecting a car click and collect – as the vast majority of dealers have a safe and secure system in place.
‘It is clearly shocking about the recent increases in cases and subsequent deaths, so I can understand the rhetoric about hardening the rules, but I don’t consider the existing application of these rules by dealers to be adding fuel to this fire.’
Car dealers have continued to argue that they can operate in a safe and socially distanced manner and have invested millions in getting their showrooms Covid secure.
What Car? editorial director Jim Holder, who has chatted to Car Dealer Live about consumer demand among buyers during lockdown 3.0, said he thinks car dealers are safe.
He said: ‘It comes back to a moral judgment and a calculation, ultimately. That is one of the difficulties the government has – walking that tightrope between public safety and the long term impact on the economy.
‘The car industry is high revenue, high turnover, high tax payer and a big employer that operates from facilities that can be run outdoors with social distancing in place and it is relatively easy to sanitise the products.
‘If they are going to walk that tightrope they have to do it absolutely fairly and I would say car retail premises should be near the top of the list of what can be run safely.’
The NHS is under extraordinary pressure with the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England at a record 32,202 as of 8am on Tuesday – up 22 per cent on a week ago, and 82 per cent since Christmas Day.
Latest figures showed that as of Tuesday, a further 1,243 people in the UK had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, with a further 45,533 cases being confirmed by labs.
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told MPs the peak demand on the health service may not be reached until early to mid-February.
Already in London some patients are being discharged early from hospital and being cared for in hotels.
The owners of the Best Western chain, the London Hotel Group (LHG), will accommodate patients deemed ready to leave King’s College Hospital.
A hospital spokesman said: ‘To create capacity in the hospital to care for the high number of patients requiring admission, we have partnered with a local hotel to temporarily accommodate mainly homeless patients who are ready to safely leave hospital and will benefit from further support from community partners.’