SHOPS can stay open longer in the run-up to Christmas with a 24/7 option after lockdown to boost retail after lockdown.

It comes amid fears up to a million jobs could go in a high-street bloodbath after the pandemic ravaged retail, causing a £9bn hit to pre-Christmas sales.

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Housing and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick urged councils to waive rules restricting opening hours to help shops.

Shops must currently apply under the town and country planning act to extend opening hours beyond 9am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.

But doing so can take weeks, with the government seeking to help a retail industry hammered by Covid and online shopping.

Around 125,000 retail jobs were lost in the first eight months of the year, with 13,867 shops shutting permanently,  the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said.

OPEN ALL HOURS

Non-essential shops reopen on Wednesday after a month-long second national lockdown, with traders desperate to recoup lost earnings.

Experts have labelled next month "the most important December ever for retailers".

Under plans to cut red tape, shops can decide their opening times and days in December and January, Mr Jenrick revealed.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Jenrick said: “With these changes local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport.

“How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council.

"But I suggest we offer these hard pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season.

“Therefore as Local Government Secretary I am relaxing planning restrictions and issuing an unambiguous request to councils to allow businesses to welcome us into their glowing stores late into the evening and beyond if wish."

While reopening offers a lifeline for many shops, it will be the public who have the final say.

Stores and supermarkets can replenish their shelves whenever they want,he added.

And flexible deliveries will "keep the streets free for the rest of us".

It means shops could open 24/7 to entice customers during the run-up to Christmas.

Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and other high-street big names hit by lockdowns and a slump in footfall have closed outlets, along with smaller independent stores.

Sir Philip Green's Arcadia retail empire, which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, are on the brink of administration.

HIGH STREET FEARS

And there are fears changes sped up by the pandemic could see as many as one million retail job losses, according to a report by The Fabian Society.

Brits are being urged to support stores by going on a shopping splurge in the run-up to Christmas.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told The Mirror: “While reopening offers a lifeline for many shops, it will be the public who have the final say.

"Thankfully, Christmas is theperfect reason to shop, knowing that
every purchase we make is a retailer helped and a job supported.”

She added: "High streets, shopping centres and retail parks have all seen footfall nose-dive during lockdown, with closed shops estimated to have lost around £2billion per week in lost sales.”

Andrew Goodacre, head of the British Independent Retailers Association,
said: “This is the most important December ever for retailers and the
high streets throughout the UK.

“We need customers to return to the shops and enjoy a traditional
Christmas shopping experience and support the local community at the same time".

Mr Jenrick pledged to slash regulation to help British shopkeepers.

He said: “Today I am… announcing a temporary relaxation in shop opening hours this Christmas and through January, asking councils to allow extended hours for shoppers on every high street Monday to Saturday.

"None of us I suspect enjoy navigating the crowds.

"And none would relish that when social distancing is so important to controlling the virus in the final furlong before the vaccine rollout commences.”

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