Bira: ‘High street banks should hang heads in shame’

High street banks are failing to support small independent retailers in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, a new members’ survey by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has revealed.

Bira asked its members about the support they have 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 March 26. 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 that I love.”

Bira also asked members whether they had received a Business Support Grant from their local authority, and 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 have had no communication. One respondent said: “I’ve been in touch with my 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 successful 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 that an overdraft would be better suited for my needs, with an arrangement fee of £150 and more than 6% interest.” Another said: “I had a rather lengthy discussion that was very downbeat and obstructive, even though they hold security on my mortgage-free business premises.”

Bira ceo Andrew Goodacre said: “It’s clear that the well-intended government initiatives are not reaching the retailers that need the support. I don’t 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 launched a dedicated coronavirus hub to help members and the wider independent retail community through the crisis. Click here for details.

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