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Latest floods leave indies reeling across the UK

Independent retailers are counting the cost of the latest floods, which have seen some grappling with cash flow as they await insurance claims and others salvaging what they can from rainwater-damaged stock.

Dee's Wardrobe

Dee’s Wardrobe

Dee’s Wardrobe in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, lost approximately 300 items of clothing due to flooding.

Others told Drapers they have had a difficult start to the year as shoppers followed advice to stay away from affected cities and towns.

“We’re absolutely devastated by the floods,” said Hilary Cookson, owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire.

“While we’ve not lost much physical stock in real terms, we were forced to close, so the loss of turnover has been catastrophic.

“We had no access into the store from Boxing Day for two to three days and people heeded warnings asking them to stay away from town, which means we are sitting on a huge pile of winter stock. From a cash flow point of view, we are up the proverbial.”

The cellar stockroom at Scruples Menswear in nearby Barrowford, Lancashire, was filled with 3 ft of water, while womenswear indie Dee’s Wardrobe in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, lost approximately 300 pieces and was not covered by insurance as it has been flooded previously.

Co-owner Jonathon Dabell posted on Facebook that around half is salvageable after washing it at home, and he is selling it outside the store.

“I have thousands of pounds of stock, which I cannot recoup money on. I am selling it for some of its original cost, just to pay the bills, so that when we reopen we have half a chance of being able to get some new stock and get moving again as a business,” wrote co-owner Dawn Dabell.

Nicola Scott, owner of contemporary womenswear indie Paper Doll, which has two stores in Pocklington and York, lost five days of trading at the York store as roads in the city centre were closed.

“We’re left with a lot of things we thought would sell well for New Year’s Eve and York is still very quiet because people are staying away. On Saturday (January 2) we had two customers through the door all day. I don’t know how long it will take to recover.”

Ashley Smart, manager of York-based Robert Smart Menswear, reported that footfall has been down by around 35% to 40% compared to the previous year. “It couldn’t come at a worse time with all the discounting we had in the run-up to Christmas and the warm weather.”

Richard McLaughlin, owner of premium retailer Attic Clothing, which has two stores in Aberdeenshire added: “Our store in Inverurie wasn’t affected as it is higher up, but the town was badly hit. Luckily, it has come at a time which is terrible anyway; I’m glad it wasn’t a week earlier as it could have really hurt our figures.” 

Nick Balcombe, partner at loss assessor Harris Balcombe, said retailers should look at their business interruption or loss of profits policies as to whether they are covered under denial of access.

“They need to read policies very carefully to understand what they are covered for as there might be exclusions, but they shouldn’t have to wait long for decisions; they need to demand action.

“Someone from the insurer should be on site within two to three days with an agreement in place shortly after,” he said. “It shouldn’t go on for months.”

Retail Trust is offering support to the businesses and families of retailers affected by the floods and can provide a number of services including hardship grants, counselling support and legal advice.

Contact Retail Trust at 0808 808 0808 or via Helpline@retailtrust.org.uk

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