In light of what we think is an inadequate response to the huge problems faced by small businesses in the midst of this pandemic, especially retail, we feel necessary to write in and because it’s a local issue:
The suggested help announced by the Chancellor for small businesses indicates a lack of understanding of the current situation faced by small businesses, especially those in retail, hospitality etc. Making loans available merely loads debt onto small companies who are often risk averse and will be more so given the unknown consequences of what we are facing. Chimes Music is an independent family business that has been supporting musicians for more than 60 years ( www.chimesmusic.com ).
Kensington Chimes, Academy Chimes and Barbican Chimes serve the three London music colleges. Much of our trade is from schools, parents/children learning instruments, musicians, teachers and of course, tourists. We already face the ever present challenges of online competition and yet the consequences of the coronavirus could be catastrophic to our business. We would suggest the government do the following to help;
1) As long as the Government is advising people no to go out, and public institutions (schools, theatres, music venues) are closed, a monthly payment should be made to all companies(if they wish to apply) in these sectors and below a certain size to cover all regular overheads including wages, pensions, rent, electricity bills etc. The information is relatively easily extracted from all standard accounting systems and applications could be signed off by the company auditors. How can small businesses survive otherwise? Most insurance policies do not cover pandemics and unexpected events like these and even if the government forced closure, there would be no pay out from our insurance companies anyway.
2) Interest free loans to be made available to those who need it to enable payment of outstanding purchase ledger invoices. This will keep mean suppliers do not lose out but loans are not the answer- they simply add to the debt of small businesses and the rates relief for the year is a huge help but we small businesses need immediate aid with their cash flow to keep them going until this nightmare is over. At times such as these, it feels like the world is falling apart and we have no control. However, secure jobs where employees can carry on their normal day to day business but work from home are a real blessing. Many businesses, however simply don’t operate like this and currently, the government decisions and the impact they have on industry are changing daily and there is little relief right now.
Hope this letter can be used in some way– my contact telephone number is 07769 651884 and our business address is Kensington Chimes Music Shop, 9 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ES
Response from Kate Hawthorne, Editor-in-Chief