Chief executive of British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), Andrew Goodacre, shares his concerns over the impact of coronavirus on independent retailers.
We are massively concerned that if there was an enforced closure like we have seen in Europe and a real reduction in expenditure [that] many of them would struggle to see themselves through a concerted period of time.
People’s minds are now being focused on the idea of being told to close, and what that means for a business. Most businesses might be able to afford two weeks of a forced closure but probably not much longer.
Even without a full lock-down it’s going to be detrimental to business. The thought of us being hampered by coronavirus for the Next 10 to 12 weeks is going to be a big test for a lot of independent retailers. We are already seeing some members phoning in with sales last week falling as much as 50% on their usual expectations.
When you hear talk of the peak not coming for 10 weeks that fills me with dread on their behalf. If everyone is spending their money on food and other essentials, they won’t be spending it on clothing. People’s thoughts are not on their normal shopping. This last week [members] have noticed a significant drop in numbers of people visiting their shops, and we expect that to continue.
What all businesses will be short on now is cash and what Independents need now is reserves. Removing business rates to those below £51,000 is Very useful, but there is a concern that that threshold may not be high enough. It probably needs to be nearer £150,000. We’d like to see even more done in that area. We’re not unappreciative of what’s been done we just don’t think it’s quite enough.
It’s important to highlight the challenge facing retailers, and the need to support them especially when we are past all of this because they will have been through a tough period.