An entrepreneur is urging businesses to stay competitive by offering essential items so they can remain open through tough Covid-19 restrictions. Asad Shamim, founder and CEO of Furniture in Fashion, a multi-million pound online retailer, has urged businesses that sell non-essential items such as clothes and tech should look at expanding their services to include essential items such as food and drink. By doing so, he says businesses can remain competitive against big supermarkets, which along with food also sell clothing, household goods and lifestyle tech. He said: “During the second lockdown, businesses especially SMEs were hit hard again as they were forced to close. “How can we have fair competition when your local independent clothing retailer on the high street has had to close its doors, yet the big supermarkets continue to sell clothing. “It’s created unfair competition in the marketplace and further squeezes the independent shops forcing them to close because they can no longer compete adding to the woes of the declining high street.” Situated in a 3.5 acre site in Farnworth, Bolton, Furniture in Fashion sells everything from sofas to TV stands, a business Mr Shamim established in 2007 when he realised how the internet would revolutionise the way people shop. Mr Shamim, who is from Rochdale, said his advice follows the frustration of seeing the high street decline and the ongoing collapse of well-known brands. In the last two weeks Debenhams said that administrators will start a "wind-down" of the retail giant after JD Sports withdrew from rescue talks. JD Sports pulled out of talks for the troubled department store chain, putting the jobs of 12,000 UK workers under threat. Women's fashion chain Bonmarché was also placed into administration, putting more than 1,500 jobs at risk. Bonmarché, which has 225 stores around the country, was owned by retail tycoon Philip Day. “The recent lockdown and tightening of the Tier rules have had a massive impact on the high street and will continue to do so unless the government takes decisive actions to help businesses,” he said. “Business owners have shown great tenacity and skill to survive this unprecedented period, but many businesses have closed or are struggling in these challenging times. “Confusing government advice along with poor communication with businesses has led to many retailers and hospitality operators not being able to plan through the uncertainties effectively. “Why haven’t hospitality businesses been given more guidance and support so they can remain open? “Instead, the government has created fear that they are unsafe places when many operators have spent thousands of pounds making sure their venues are Covid safe. “What we need is that message that it is safe to be in hospitality venues.” Mr Shamim added: “The pandemic has shifted consumer behaviour to such an extent that even if the economy improves, and news of the vaccine will help, people’s pre-Covid habits may not return. “People like working from home so they don’t want to be in a city centre office all week. “Online shopping has been made even easier and this has already impacted the high street but will continue to do so. “The ease of how consumers access goods and services mean that when things do improve, towns and cities will have to take a deeper look at how they can bring consumer back into the high street.”