The Chancellor’s mini budget on Friday (September 23) received a mixed reaction from the gift industry, who were pleased with the energy cap in the short term, and the cancelled rise in National Insurance, but less enthusiastic about no mention of business rates relief.
“As we have just moved to a new shop the energy cap will be extremely useful for us, but we will have to see if a six month cap will be enough in the long term,” commented Jo Williams, owner of Joco Interiors in Nuneaton. “Nevertheless, it is welcomed to assist us through the winter months. The cut to the National insurance rise is also very welcome. Although I have some part time staff, the costs were considerable for my full time employees.”
Continued Jo: “However, I was hoping that there would be significant business rates relief, as costs have spiralled. It would have been welcomed by all small businesses to outweigh the additional costs we have incurred since dealing with the loss of footfall during the pandemic – stock increases, minimum wage rises and fuel costs. I think it is safe to say something is better than nothing and we will have to knuckle down to get through what is to come.”
At Williams of Audlem in Audlem, owner Judy Williams added: “While we have already been well supported by our local authority, Cheshire East, who some years ago had the vision to adopt a policy of zero business rates for most small high street shops, we have been left disappointed by Friday’s announcements by central Government.
“While there is some comfort in capping business energy rates, they are already excessively high compared to last year, and it is only for six months. However, our main concern is that it does not appear to address what is critical to most gift shops – consumer confidence.”
She added: “In addition, we are somewhat sceptical as to whether such a small cut in VAT will help, as prices are rising fast, and such a small percentage cut is likely to have an imperceptible effect on sales or profits if not passed on. Although the cut in National Insurance may mean people will have slightly more money in their pay packets, there is some concern from customers that this is at the cost of taking money away from already under funded social care and benefits.
“As a business, we would like to have seen grants being made available for insulation and double glazing for shops, whether owned or rented, and a more targeted approach to retail.”
However, Andrew Goodacre, ceo of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), said he welcomed Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget. “Reversing or cancelling increases in National Insurance and corporation tax will reduce the cost burden faced by independent retailers,” he stated. “Along with the energy support announced last week, we now hope that retailers can plan and fully focus on this all-important final quarter of the year.
“We also hope that the measures introduced to support households will restore consumer confidence and encourage shoppers back to the high streets. Consumer spending needs to increase or many independent retailers and high streets in general will continue to struggle,” he stated.
Top: Will the Chancellor’s mini budget restore consumer confidence and encourage spending on the high street?