BIRA Worried About High Street

The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) is pleased with the government’s latest support packages but is worried it may not be enough.

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) is warning of ‘mass closures on the high street’ if more Government support is not made available.

The warning comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak cancelled the autumn Budget in which he was expected to make an announcement on the review of the business rates system. The Chancellor instead announced new measures to protect jobs and help businesses struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

One of the measures announced was the six-month Job Support Scheme, which will replace the furlough scheme ending in October. The scheme will top-up the wages of employees only needed to work a third of their hours through reduced business.

Other measures that were announced included an extension to the VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors; and longer repayment terms for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs).

However, Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre said, “Many of the jobs in retail are not sustainable due to low footfall and low sales in the shops. More needs to be done to protect the high street from mass closures and we hope that cancelling the Budget does not delay decisions on business rates.”

The Government also announced that the ban on Statutory Demands and Winding Up Petitions due to Covid-related inability to pay rent in full will be extended from September 30 until December 31.

This brings the measures, contained in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, into line with the extended moratorium on lease forfeiture and Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery in England and Wales.

This welcome news – just days before the next rent quarter date – now leaves County Court Judgements (CCJs) as the only outstanding measure that needs addressing on aggressive rent collection in England.

Andrew Goodacre said, “This is exactly what Bira has been campaigning for. Research had shown that 20% of indies could not pay rent and this type of intervention is crucial in saving businesses and jobs.” Bira is continuing its campaign for new measures to help independent retailers mitigate the impact of Covid-19.