Additional reporting and photo by Tristan Ovington.
The Federation of Independent Retailers has urged the chancellor of the exchequer to address a number of factors that are threatening the very existence of many smaller retail businesses.
The Federation’s national president, Jason Birks, has written to Jeremy Hunt with a list of issues to be taken into consideration ahead of the Spring Budget on March 15.
The letter comes after the Federation added its calls to those of other trade associations urging the business secretary to look again at the latest energy help (EBDS), which does not provide enough support and is not targeted appropriately.
Mr Birks said: “The energy relief scheme is simply not enough. Support needs to be targeted for small businesses feeling the biggest impact of the energy crisis. The government must look at the way it can target support to these businesses and support them during this time of crisis.
“We also want to see the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Ofgem encourage energy suppliers to help the most vulnerable business customers renegotiate or ‘blend and extend’ their energy contracts to better reflect lower wholesale energy prices.”
Other concerns raised on behalf of the Federation’s 10,000-plus members include the rising price of goods, which is likely to result in a further increase in retail crime; the current labour shortage; and the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) in Scotland.
He added: “The Fed is also calling on the government to provide support to small businesses that are being affected by the rising cost of fuel. It will ultimately put people out of business.
“It is essential that the chancellor considers all these points for the spring statement. Independent retailers are continuing to struggle, and it is vital that they receive adequate support from the government.”
Local business owner.
Pierre Barton Pink, of art supplies shop Compleat Artist, said that the local government could be doing more. “Local government could be working with and supporting small businesses, including with their energy bills, to help Salisbury maintain its character and attract more tourists.
“These small shops are the backbone of the town, offering local, well paid jobs and teaching people new skills.”
But Pierre also feels help is needed from other sources. “Energy companies should look to do what they can to support small local businesses which help sustain them.”
Pierre was also concerned with the clarity of the message from Mr Birks. “The intention for these changes must be clear in order for progress to be meaningful to Salisbury’s business community.”