Independents retailers fear they could be hit by another flood “disaster”, as heavy downpours are set to strike just days after many were forced to shut shop and salvage weather-damaged goods.
On Monday the Met Office issued a “threat to life” warning, as more than 63 flood warnings and 154 flood alerts were in place across England and Wales. It warned that Hurricane Lorenzo is expected to hit British shores this weekend, resulting in high winds and further heavy downpours. Cornwall, Devon, Folkestone and Wales are expected to be among the worst affected.
Independents fear further heavy downpours as they count the cost of the latest floods.
“Last Wednesday [25 September] lots of businesses in Spitalfields and the surrounding areas were flooded,” said Debra McCann, owner of the Mercantile, which is based in the east London shopping district.
“The drains couldn’t cope with the sheer level of water: it was gushing out of the wall and spraying on to the rails. It was really scary. We were forced to shut all Wednesday afternoon until mid-afternoon the next day.”
She added: “It damaged hundreds of products at ground level, but if it had happened overnight then it would have damaged thousands. They’re forecasting a flood warning over the next six days, so we’re worried this could happen again.”
Cheryl Burge, owner of womenswear independent Turnaround Wear in Braunton, Devon, where the River Caen burst its banks on Monday, said the extreme weather has hit sales: “There is a general sense of concern from local businesses that the river is going to burst its banks again.
“I’ve got sandbags at the back door and others have them at their entrances. My shop flooded five years ago, which was dreadful. It’s quite a challenging time with the high tides as well as heavy rainfall.”
She added that September sales figures were “definitely down” as a result.
Independent businesses in Cornwall have also had to take measures to protect their stores, which have affected trading.
Leah Bentley, assistant manager at lingerie independent Mish in Wadebridge, said: “We’re definitely more concerned this year, and have taken the necessary precautions to protect staff and the business [by] closing earlier and opening later, and having floodgates in front of our shop [this week]. We’ve been moving up stock that is nearer to the shop floor, which is time-consuming but necessary to save a potential disaster.
She added: “When you count how many independent shops there are, that is a potential huge loss to business.”
Alison Buchan, owner of womenswear independent Tuleni in Banff, Aberdeenshire, said: “The bridge between Banff and McDuff was submerged on Saturday. Luckily, we haven’t experience flooding in store but half of our [customers] come from that side of the river and they have been unable to reach us [this week]. It was because of steady, heavy rain.”