The SME club, the free independent resource for all UK small and medium businesses, has launched a campaign to Save Our Shops. UK SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and independent and local retail is at the heart of our villages, towns and cities.
We are asking big businesses and the government to support the campaign and to keep our high streets and the heart of our communities alive and buoyant.
Retailers paid only 13.8% of outstanding rent that was due following the government rent freeze during the lockdown period. This has left UK landlords waiting for more than £2bn in rent. The UK Government and Rishi Sunak initial reaction to the pandemic and furlough schemes undoubtedly saved thousands of UK SMEs from shutting their doors forever but now many small and local retailers need more support.
Many are still struggling to reopen and not being able to trade for 3 months has obviously caused a huge loss in revenue that they are unlikely to make this up in the short-term. Reopening means taking staff of furlough and costs returning to normal but with social distancing many can simply not trade as they did pre-lockdown.
On top of this the struggling retailers are returning to a huge rent bill with many facing eviction for non-payment of rent. The SME club believes that freeze rent was a temporary solution to a long term problem and isn't going to save our shops but just delay the inevitable.
We believe the UK Govt has to step in now and #SAVEOURSHOPS and we would suggest the following measures:
Tenants should pay rent if they are financially able to, even if this only partially.
Landlords who are able to offer flexibility must do so for any struggling tenants.
The Government needs to offer a scheme to help small UK retailers pay rent debt and also set rent limits to allow our shops and communities to prosper.
Our campaign is aimed to support all high street shops and businesses, local community champions, any relevant trade associations, local authorities, retail landlords and anyone else involved in the SME retail sector across the UK. This campaign is here to help through the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond to ensure our shops remain the heart of the local community.
Having a buoyant, diverse and successful high street benefits everyone.
We are setting up a Save Our Shops advisory board and WE NEED YOU. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join our board.