These are difficult and uncertain times for many small businesses – even some larger businesses are struggling and this pandemic has only just begun. The Government has announced a raft of measures to help businesses manage, but there are also plenty of outside-of-the box ideas that could help your small business in crisis.
While many of our clients will be operating at a reduced but acceptable capacity from home, others – particularly those who have bricks and mortar operations – will be feeling the strain.
Particularly hard-hit businesses include retail, hospitality and leisure. In this blog we’ll be looking at what these business types can do about accessing support and diversifying for the short – medium term.
At the time of writing the government has announced two grant schemes for businesses hard-hit by the current pandemic crisis.
A grant of £25,000 for any retail, leisure or hospitality business with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000. This will be supplied by each business’s local authority and guidance for this grant will be available from 20th March.
There is also a £10,000 grant available to most businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
SSP Relief Package
As confirmed in the Budget, SSP will now be offered from day one, rather than day four. The government will also be offering a refund of 14 days worth of SSP paid to employees who are off work due to COVID-19. Clarification has not been given on whether there is additional refunds available per person if, say, they are forced to take 14 days off due to a different virus and then later are required to take another 14 days for COVID-19.
This relief package is only available to companies with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28th Feb 2020) and the repayment mechanism will be communicated to employers as soon as it’s available. For now please keep accurate records of staff absences and payments of SSP.
12 Month Business Rate Holiday
Again, this offer is to businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector for the tax year 2020-2021 – no business rates will be chargeable in this period.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Backed by the government and delivered by the British Business Bank, the scheme will launch within the next week to help businesses access loans and overdrafts. Loans of up to £5 million will be available and will be interest free for the first 6 months.
The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
And finally, the Time To Pay Scheme, which basically means any business or self employed person in financial distress will tax liabilities will be eligible to receive support from HMRC. These are handed on a case-by-case basis so we can’t be specific about what help will be available, but we can speculate that it may consist of extended deadlines, and waivers of penalties where appropriate.
Any business currently in or expecting financial distress as a result of COVID-19 should contact their insurer who will be able to give details of the coverage available – this is a great first step for many retail, leisure and hospitality businesses to take as soon as possible to help them plan.
So that’s the government advice, but what else can you do…?
Well there is plenty you could try, you might just need to think out of the box a little. We’ve had a few ideas between us and a few ideas from clients and local businesses. The best ideas seem to stem from figuring out what might be necessary in the location of your business.
So, for example, pubs, restaurants and bars can diversify to offer:
- Takeaway or delivery of cooked food
- Fresh local produce sale from their suppliers
- The sale of local community goods such as eggs, fruit or vegetables
Retail businesses who are not already online can quickly and easily set up a small website via simple platforms such as Wix or WordPress and post items out to customers. Social media is another great option for retailers to reach out for local support – remember if people get locked down they’ll still need to buy things, and we would hope they’d go local first – so make sure your business is still available to them.
Leisure is often a bit trickier, but there are still things you can do. For example if you have a gym, can you live-stream workout classes to your customers?
Finally, a great tip is to reach out to your community – whether this is via email, social media, or by signage around your location and ask them what they need from you. Test out your diversification ideas on them and see what they think. People want to come together while they are forced to stay apart – they want to support local businesses and they want you to be there when this is all over.