Marks & Spencer has been forced to shut half of its clothing and homeware areas, more than it originally thought necessary, under new lockdown rules.
Further guidance was released on which shops are essential and what they are allowed to sell as England entered a second lockdown on Thursday.
But the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents the industry, said the rules created “arbitrary” lines over what was deemed essential.
A supermarket can, for example, sell “non-essential” homeware if it is stocked on its aisles. If the goods are on a separate floor, it must close the area.
Before the lockdown, M&S was preparing to close up to 20pc of its space selling non-essential items. In light of the fresh details, 238 floors will now shut – over half of its non-food space.
As a result, the retailer will put more staff on furlough ahead of Christmas. Earlier this week M&S already announced it had swung to a loss for the first time in its 94 years as a public company after its clothing and home business was hammered during the crisis.
Billionaire retailer Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which owns Sports Direct, Evans Cycles and Frasers department stores, has confirmed it will not keep any outlets open in England. The company launched a scathing attack on the Government as other bike retailers have been allowed to trade.
It said: “The Government has been unwilling, over a period of six months, to even clarify what it believes a ‘bicycle shop’ is. The likes of Mr [Michael] Gove are failing to provide the leadership and guidance that businesses require.”
The BRC, which estimates closed shops will lose out on £2bn a week, added: “Unfortunately for many people, this means they cannot visit shops to get the items that are essential to them, from the home office equipment and electronics they need for work, or the pots, pans, fridges and freezers they need during lockdown.”
The comments came a day after the boss of JoJo Maman Bébé hit out at ministers for forcing the babywear retailer to close up shop during lockdown, saying it provides vital support for young families and should be allowed to stay open.
Laura Tenison, who founded the chain in 1993, said it is “extraordinary” that pregnancy, new baby and toddler clothes and equipment are not included on a Government list of essentials.