Organisations representing the UK retail sector have welcomed the Government’s £350bn Coronavrius emergency fund but calls have been issued for further support measures to be put in place.
As Health Food Business went to press, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced an emergency package of measures to support business facing hardship following the Coronavirus outbreak.
Measures of support included that business rates were being abolished for all retailers for 2020/21 (previously it was just for businesses below £51,000 rateable value). That is said to be worth approximately £7.9bn in savings for retailers. There will also be cash grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for smaller retailers (below £51,000 RV) and further availability of business interruption loans.
Responding to the UK Government’s announcement of a package of measures to support businesses, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “The Chancellor has acted swiftly to back retail businesses dealing with the unprecedented challenges created by coronavirus. He is to be congratulated for listening carefully to the concerns of retailers and has delivered a big, bold package of measures that will be a huge cashflow boost and will improve confidence for those affected.
“Business rates are a huge burden for retailers at the best of times. The business rates holiday, together with the announcement of a loan package, represent a vital shot in the arm for a sector facing enormous uncertainty. We still need to see the details and make sure that retailers can access cash with the minimum of delay, but it is a welcome and necessary first step to protect jobs.
“The Chancellor has said he will do whatever is necessary to support business and he has shown that he can respond to the changing need of retailers. While these are the right decisions today, the Government may have to take further steps as the full effects of the situation unfold.”
The news was also welcomed by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), although its CEO, Andrew Goodacre, said funds must be made available immediately to stop the collapse of many small independent retailers already seeing reduced trade.
He commented: “We are pleased with these further announcements by the Government. Following on from the Budget, we stated that more support was needed for small retailers and the Government has now shown it was listening to Bira.
“The rates holiday for all retailers is worth approximately £7.9 billion and that is very welcome. The higher grants and business interruption loans will also help maintain cash flow. It is really important now that the details of how to apply for these grants is made available as soon as possible as we are already seeing the impact of the latest Government guidance with lower footfall and some businesses closing.”
He added: “And even though all this is in the news, some members have informed us that local authorities are not helping and claiming not to know about this extra support. That situation must also be addressed to avoid confusion and frustration.”
Bira is also calling for the latest rates relief measures to be extended to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the decision to do so is devolved.
Echoing calls for greater support, in his Health Food Business column this month, written prior to the Government’s emergency fund announcement, Gary Trickett, Chairman of the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS), said: “Our biggest concern for our members is the likely financial impact phase two will have on their businesses and we fully support Bira in calling for the Treasury to set up an emergency business fund to help those affected through a number of measures.”