High street banks are failing to support small independent retailers in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a new members’ survey by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has revealed.
Bira asked its members three key questions about the support they’ve received following the outbreak of coronavirus, and the results show a large majority are getting little or no help.
Almost two thirds (64.5%) said they would not benefit from the self-employed income protection announced on 26 March. Many members said they would not qualify because they pay themselves in dividends, while others admitted they were confused over how it was claimed.
One member said: “We haven’t had enough profit in the last three years as we are just about ticking over in a job I love.”
Secondly, Bira asked members whether they’d received a Business Support Grant from their local authority to which 91% said they had not. Despite Bira lobbying for local authorities to be more forthcoming about the support grants, the majority of members said they’d had no communication.
One respondent said, “I’ve been in touch with local authority but they do not have a timescale for the initial letter notification going out.”
High street banks also came under fire in the survey with only 1% of the members who have applied for a business interruption loan being succesful so far. Almost 20% of members surveyed have approached their lender for help, with many still waiting for a response.
One member said, “I was advised an overdraft would be better suited for my needs with an arrangement fee of £150 and more than 6% interest.”
Another said, “Had a rather lengthy discussion that was very downbeat and obstructive even though they hold security on my mortgage-free business premises.”
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO said, “It is clear that the well-intended Government initiatives are not reaching the retailers that need the support.
“I do not understand why it is taking so long to award the grants. The self-employed income protection scheme will only help a quarter of retailers.
“The high street banks are simply not willing to help and should hang their heads in shame. Independent retailers have no money coming in, have had low margins and low profits for many years and need more support than is currently available, otherwise many of these businesses will not re-open when the situation returns back to normal.”
Bira has also launched a new dedicated coronavirus hub to help members and the wider independent retail community through the crisis. Click here for more details.