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    The energy crisis is tearing through Britain’s high streets, with warnings on Friday of a “lost generation” of small businesses, as the impact of soaring gas and electricity prices begins to impact cafes, restaurants, shops and salons.

    Across the UK, growing numbers of traders are taking the difficult decision to close their doors for good in the face of unaffordable costs driven by record inflation, with some reporting tenfold increases in utility bills.

    In yet another flashing red light for the economy, which is forecast by the Bank of England to fall into recession next year, data published today by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) shows that a majority of firms – 53% – expect to stagnate. , shrink or close in the coming 12 months.

    The industry body called on government to act now to shield traders. “Without help, we are facing a generation of lost businesses, jobs and potential,” said Tina McKenzie, policy and advocacy chair at the FSB.

    Smaller traders employ 16 million people between them but do not benefit from the energy price cap, which puts a ceiling on costs for households but not for companies.

    The huge jump in prices is slowly filtering through to businesses as their fixed term contracts – some of which last for several years – expire, and many have been shocked by the increase as bills land on their doormats. A growing number are being left with no option but to stop trading.

    Local papers are reporting multiple closures, while people are taking to social media to share stories of much-loved neighborhood shops, cafes and takeaways throwing in the towel, depriving communities of valuable jobs.

    The residents of Coppull in Lancashire are now without a fish and chip shop for the first time in 40 years, after the owner of Oh My Cod pulled the plug following a dispute with his energy supplier, taking four jobs and a delivery driver role with it. .

    Its owner, Andrew Crook, was quoted electricity prices of 80p per kilowatt-hour for daytime usage for the Coppull shop: nearly eight times higher than the 11.5p/kWh he pays in his other premises on an existing contract.

    UK’s small businesses forced to close by soaring energy bills | Energy bills
    Oh My Cod, the only fish and chip shop in Coppull, is to be closed because of high energy bills.

    The shop was bought by Crook 22 years ago and was his first chippy. Crook, who now speaks for the industry as president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, also owns another shop down the road, Skippers of Euxton, near Chorley.

    Even without needing to pay rent, soaring energy bills combined with rocketing prices for fish, means Crook can’t afford to turn the energy-guzzling deep faters back on and is having fry to mothball the business.

    “With what it would take to get the business going again, the energy prices just don’t stack up,” Crook said. “I’m going to have to sit it out until the prices come back down.”

    One of Crooks’ members, the owner of the Weeping Cross Fish Bar in Stafford, has been quoted an annual energy bill of £36,000, six times higher than the £6,000 he has been paying to date.

    Other business owners are reluctantly deciding to turn the lights off.

    Friday marked the last day of trading for Minshull’s Country Kitchen, a cafe in Sandbach, Cheshire. After eight successful years of producing “nanny’s cooking” – from quiches and stews, to pies and crumbles – Paul Minshull has decided to call it a day, fearful of the rising energy bills and an impending recession.

    “We felt one increase [in energy bills], and that was a pinch enough as it is. We couldn’t sustain the next ones,” he said.

    “I can see what the next few years are going to bring and it’s not going to end any time soon.”

    Minshull, 30, is instead going to work as a restaurant manager at a local pub run by his friend where he knows he will have a regular income.

    Val Burrows, who has owned the West Street Laundry in East Grinstead, West Sussex for 10 years, is weighing up whether she can afford to keep her business going.

    “It’s a nightmare,” she said. Her utility contract came to an end in July, and even though she had expected increased costs, she was shocked to see the price shoot up by 173%, taking the annual bill from £6,000 to £16,000. “It’s just not affordable,” she said.

    “We are completely reliant on large supplies of gas, electricity and water,. What can I do if I can’t afford to pay the bills? We need to be affordable and can’t just pass it on to our customers as they would run away.”

    Burrows employs one person in her shop, and had already increased her prices by 30% in anticipation of bigger energy bills, but will still be left with a shortfall.

    The 64-year-old has a year to run on her lease, and so is considering the future of the laundrette, which has provided a service to the town for 40 years, particularly to lower income households who do not have a washing machine at home.

    “Businesses need more help to get us through this,” she said. She is calling for government to help shoulder some of the burden. “I am a sole trader, so I am liable personally for rent, rate and utilities so I have got to get through, and if at the end of the year there is no help I’ll just have to shut the door.”

    Earlier this month, Martin Tang made the difficult decision to close the Royal Crown takeaway in Aberdeen, which has been run by his family since the 1980s. It came after he was hit by a tenfold increase in energy bills from his supplier, SSE, he told BBC Scotland.

    Natalie Hood, who worked at the takeaway, wrote on Twitter of her sadness as they prepared to lock the doors for the final time. “We’re one of the first local businesses in Aberdeen to be forced to close, we won’t be the last. Something needs to be done!”

    Customers of the Ainsty farm shop, at Kirk Hammerton near York, were informed by the owners that they were closing their doors at the end of September “because of the huge rise in electricity prices”.

    Stuart and Lily Beaton posted on Facebook that the impending increase in energy bills made it impossible to continue trading after their electricity contract ends at the end of next month.

    The Beatons, who have run the business for 22 years and been in the same premises for 17, wrote: “As you probably all understand, running a butchery, bakery and deli uses a lot of electricity and we can now no longer carry on. ”

    It was a £4,000 electricity bill for 10 weeks’ usage – double the previous cost – which prompted the owner of a tearoom in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, to shut up shop. Richard Stewart-Brown told the Belfast Telegraph he had usually paid £2,000 for energy since opening Molly Browns Dog Friendly Tea Room in 2018. He posted on Facebook that “an increase in rent, food costs at an all time high and energy costs through the roof” pushed the family to make their decision.

    Italian restaurant Santoni in Keighley, West Yorkshire, will welcome diners for the final time on Saturday, after owner Marco Di Rienzo decided to call it a day after five years. Hit by rising food prices, as well as rocketing energy bills, Di Rienzo told Yorkshire Live he made the difficult decision not to renew his lease.

    The FSB’s survey of traders found the highest recorded proportion of firms saying their costs were higher than a year ago, at 89%. Nearly 15% expect to downsize or close in the next 12 months, while 39% say they won’t grow at all.

    The outlook for some sectors is better than others: 63% of IT and communications businesses expected to grow, compared with only 34% of wholesale and retail firms, and 35% of hospitality operators.

    “Any cost of living plan worth the name needs to tackle the mounting energy bills small firms face,” McKenzie said. “Support is urgently required to stop driving prices for hard-up consumers ever higher and more small firms out of business.”

    She is calling for the energy rebate issued through the council tax system to be extended to the business rates system, along with other measures including cutting VAT on energy consumption, and direct help for small firms that don’t pay business rates.

    The overwhelming majority (99%) of British businesses have 49 employees or fewer, while more than 1m businesses employ up to nine people. Small and medium-sized companies account for three-fifths of the UK’s private sector employment, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics, and employ more than 16 million people.

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