Lets Raise The Bar

Lets Raise The Bar

Raise The Bar

This post relates to the campaign to extend the £25,000 grant scheme. It is directed to our members who are in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector and whose business has a rateable value between £51,001 and £150,000, as listed by the VOA on the GOV.UK website.

We are aware that due to the rateable value, your property was NOT eligible to receive grant funding as a part of the governments COVID-19 Retail and Leisure Hospitality Grant Scheme.

This exclusion has negatively impacted businesses in some towns / parts of the country more than others. In the Leamington Town Centre BID Area it means 109 businesses miss out on grant funding, that we know will make a big difference in supporting you, your staff and your business through this trying period. In London, this affects around 19,000 businesses. Feedback from those who have received grants suggest it has offered a lifeline, enabling them to pay suppliers, manage stock-loss, pay rent and overheard costs, support adaption and in some cases, survive.

I have been working with industry organisations and other BIDs to put together a campaign to address this gap. This is called ‘Raise the Bar’. A letter headed by Croydon BID which I also contributed to, has been sent to Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP who is the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This can be read by clicking here.

The website is here: https://raisethebarcampaign.com. In the last week there has been a fantastic uptake in national press and a question was raised at the Government’s daily briefing with Matt Hancock MP about this yesterday.

How can you help?

We have a government petition which has now been signed by nearly 15,000 people, which you can sign by clicking here. Please share with #RaiseTheBar.

We are looking for business case studies … that is, businesses who would be willing to provide further details about the impact of COVID-19, your current position and how getting a £25,000 grant would help you. Please note, that case study information will be shared with the press, and you may be contacted. Of course, we will support you with this also. Please let me know if this interests you…

It is worth noting that the business support that has been provided to date is hard won. BIDs, membership organisations and industry bodies all over the country are lobbying for their members, and it is important that we express an honest picture of your current circumstances. Also, we are well aware that there are many other ‘asks’ of government at the moment, and that further support will be needed going forwards too. For now, ‘Raise the Bar’ is a deliverable ‘ask’ and would make an immediate impact.

If you would like further information or an informal chat about this, please reply by email (stephanie@bidleamington.com) and I will be in touch.

Best wishes, stay safe and keep in touch.

BID Business Survey Results

BID Business Survey Results

BID Business Survey Results

The impact of Covid-19 on Leamington’s retail and leisure sector, with a particular focus on independent businesses – key findings from a business survey conducted between 04 April and 08 April 2020.

 

Summary and key issues

Similar to the tourism sector, the results are stark and sobering. The survey was informed by a wide range of mostly independent retail and leisure sector businesses.

Some 85% have seen a fall in revenue of 80% -100% and 95% indicated a fall in revenue  greater than 50%. Critically, taking account of existing support and grants, 84% are experiencing cashflow problems. Also 78% feel that under the current lockdown conditions, they can last no longer than 3 months without further support (12% were less than 1 month).

At this time 88% are temporarily closed and 84% have furloughed staff. Of this, 56% have furloughed 76-100% of staff. Some 66% have opted to defer VAT, though there has been limited uptake of other forms of government assistance, with many reporting problems reaching banks and accessing loans.

Critical concerns for businesses relate to cashflow challenges (including rent, utilities and loan repayments) and attracting customers back. It is very clear that further support is needed, especially if emergency measures are extended, as many have limited capacity to take on debt after facing numerous years of existing challenges. A strategic recovery approach will be essential. Immediate needs cited were more support from landlords (e.g. rent reduction or holiday), VAT reduction rather than deferral, additional financial support, including grants for those that were not eligible (rateable value above £51,000) and a phased end to furloughing (beyond May 31) to avoid future job losses.

 

Introduction

Covid-19 has created an unprecedented crisis for the region’s business community, with the retail, leisure and tourism sectors among the first to be affected and continuing to bear the brunt. BID Leamington has collaborated with the WMGC’s Research Team and Shakespeare’s England to survey the regions businesses, and this part of the survey focuses on the retail and leisure sector in Leamington Spa. There were 41 responses from mostly independent businesses from a variety of sectors.

 

Business impact

Some 85% have seen a fall in revenue of 80%-100% and 95% indicated a fall in revenue  greater than 50%. Critically, taking account of existing support, 84% are experiencing cashflow problems, even though 95% of businesses in this data received a grant of some kind. Also 78% feel that under the current lockdown conditions, they can last no longer than 3 months without further support (12% were less than 1 month).

 

Take-up of Business Assistance

At this time 88% are temporarily closed and 83% have furloughed staff. Of this, 56% have furloughed 76-100% of staff. Some 66% have opted to defer VAT, though there has been limited uptake of other forms of government assistance (e.g. Loans, HMRC helpline) with many reporting issues reaching banks and accessing loans. Some also indicated a reluctance to take on debt that they are not confident they can trade out of.

Job retention scheme e.g. claim for 80% of furloughed employees 83.9 %
VAT deferral 66.5 %
Income Tax deferral (self-assessment payments) 24.4 %
Self Employed income support 12.2 %
Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs 7.3 %
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) 17.1 %
Support for Retail, hospitality & leisure businesses: Cash grants of 10K or £25k 95.1 %
HMRC Time to Pay scheme 29.2 %
Please note any other support you have utilised? 4.8 %

 

Key Challenges and Support Needs

Where possible, businesses are attempting to adapt but are limited by commission charges of outside trading platforms (e.g. Trouva, Deliveroo etc), Royal Mail and Courier Company delivery issues and charges. A limited number are doing deliveries themselves however demand is uncertain.

Looking forward, critical concerns for businesses in this sector relate to cashflow challenges (including rent, utilities and loan repayments) and attracting customers back.

If the recovery is not strategic and supported sadly some will be left with no option but to close. Also, if furlough support is not phased out (beyond May 31 or when emergency  measures end) many are predicting they may have to reduce staff hours or make redundancies. The concern is that consumers may lack confidence and / or have adapted to online shopping so will need to be enticed back. Strong ‘shop local’ communications with strategic interventions to support social distancing are likely to be needed during the transition period. Many will need a ‘notice period’ to enable time to re-stock e.g. two weeks.

It is very clear that further support is needed. Key areas cited by businesses included:

  • Additional support from landlords (e.g. rent reduction or holiday) and / or support for landlords so they can pass this support to their tenants.
  • VAT reduction rather than deferral for a period
  • Grants for businesses that were not eligible e.g. rateable value above £51,000
  • Urgent additional financial support to avoid additional debt e.g. VAT reduction or further grants if the lockdown is extended.
  • Phased ending to the furlough period beyond May 31st (assuming restrictions and / or limited consumer demand continues) to avoid future job losses
  • A strategic approach to recovery e.g. clear communications, a notice period to re-stock
  • Help with marketing, promotions etc. when the time comes.
Focused Business Support

Focused Business Support

Focused Business Support

BID Leamington is focusing all of its resources on supporting the town centre with the impact of Coronavirus in light of recent announcements about business closures.

As well as highlighting latest government guidance, including measures to help mitigate the financial impact, it is reaching out to businesses to fully understand their needs in order to lobby for additional support.

It is also re-launching online platforms to support business and community activities.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “Whilst we welcome the government’s support measures, it is clear that more is needed, for instance, around immediate access to financial help, and commercial lease issues facing independents.

“It is therefore vital that we fully understand business needs so that we can feedback to our MP, government and relevant industry bodies about what additional support is required.

“There is a really strong sense of community in Leamington and already many examples of people working together, so we are doing all we can to help businesses and the wider community support this collective effort and adapt to these unprecedented challenges.

“Many businesses are showing their resilience and ingenuity, for instance by extending their services to support food deliveries to vulnerable people, offering online events, virtual pubs, video and phone shopping, and offering collect and delivery, and we would really encourage local people where possible to support them now more than ever.

“We have recently re-launched two websites to showcase these efforts, and will be constantly updating our social media with information on how town centre businesses are adapting and their new service offerings, so that we can all find out what is happening and get involved.”

People can visit www.loveleamington.com and www.tasteleamington.com to find out the latest information on Leamington town centre businesses including those also trading online, and offering collection or home delivery.

All town centre businesses can visit www.bidleamington.com for information and support, and are urged to make contact with the BID team for advice at info@bideaminton.com.

BID Meetings: Connect, Learn & Inspire

BID Meetings: Connect, Learn & Inspire

Last night we held one of our regular BID Business Meetings (16th October 2019), which was kindly hosted by Stevie, Lotfi and the team at the newly renovated and opened Grove Kitchen in Regent Grove who also supplied some delicious nibbles and drinks!

We are not always sure how many can attend or what cross-section of business owners will be there but regardless of if there are 20 or 50, the conversation is always interesting and inspiring. When our meetings are a little smaller as was the case last night (22 people from 17 different businesses) it offers an opportunity for everyone to introduce their business, share their ideas, successes and challenges and collectively solve problems. It is also very helpful to myself, Alison and Gary (the BID team) as we can get under the skin of the critical issues concerning our members.

Last night was brilliant, so firstly our sincere thanks to everyone who joined us and contributed. I left feeling very warmed and inspired. The topics we discussed were diverse: I introduced recent BID insights and activities (the trading environment including new business openings, Brexit, our Annual Report, the launch of Meaningful Change, upcoming Christmas promotions and our future agenda including the High St Fund (recently awarded to Leamington) and ‘Green Leamington’.

Following this, business owners and managers spent some time introducing themselves and highlighting opportunities to help each other:

  • Belvoir (pictured) kicked things off with an overview of the property sector and reminded us of their kind offer to put businesses information in the goodie bags given out to new homeowners and tenants. Just drop it into Sue and John at their office on Regent Grove.
  • Neals Yard has been carbon neutral for 11 years and Matt highlighted how much they have learnt on the journey. He has offered to help us collate this learning so it can be shared more widely.
  • Our lips were watering as Rosemary introduced us to her amazing handmade chocolate business located at Lantern Corner (Cenu Cacao). We were left wishing for winter to arrive so we can try her hot chocolate!
  • Health and wellbeing is part of the town’s DNA and is the focus of Beauty on Demand, now in Oxford Street. It was lovely to hear from Julie and learn about the wide range of services on offer from nails to massage, it is all about being pampered.
  • The Party Shop on Regent Street are here to help us shine! Rob and Mike’s business is green accredited and if you pay them a visit they are sure to make you laugh!
  • The Art’s Trail has recently moved into the Royal Priors, so it was nice to hear from Gerry who has a wide range of print and copy services on offer. You can find them on the Upper Mall.
  • Emma from Monsoon / Accessorise made us smile when she offered everyone a piercing to celebrate this is now on offer there!
  • Finally, Sarah Horne is constantly innovating and her Botanical range features her own drawings while her Flower Schools form a part of her experiential offer. She invited businesses to an exhibition this Friday October 18, which she has curated in partnership with Gerry (Arts Trail).

As always, I was struck by the passion and multi-talented nature of these business owners. They are incredible and doing it all: buying, negotiating, making and designing products, displays and windows, marketing, on social media, serving customers, doing accounts, HR and more. It is incredible to see such cross-section of talent in one person … yet we interact with it daily. This calls for huge respect.  

Helpful Links:

Meaningful Change Leamington

Brexit Advice Link

Upcoming BID Events

BID Annual Report

Our thanks to the businesses who joined us:

  • Arts Trail
  • Beauty on Demand
  • Belvoir
  • Cenu Cacao
  • CoOp Travel
  • Côte
  • Jaeger
  • Monsoon / Accessorise
  • Neals Yard Remedies
  • One Stop Party Shop
  • Peter Stephan Jewellers
  • Photiq
  • Royal Priors
  • Sarah Horne Flowers
  • Sharps
  • The Grove Kitchen
  • Tom Howley Kitchens

Upcoming Covent Garden Meetings

Upcoming Covent Garden Meetings

Warwick District Council (WDC) are hosting two meetings relating to the Covent Garden Car Park development, which local businesses are invited to next week. As you may know, it is proposed this car park will close in around 10 weeks for approx 18 months. We have been asked to communicate the following details to local businesses, which are below and attached:
Meeting – Option 1: Monday 12 November – Evening (Public)

Where: Royal Spa Centre, Leamington

Who: Residents and businesses invited.

When: Arrive from 6.30pm for refreshments. 7pm start.

Details: The meeting will be independently chaired by Phil Upton, of BBC CWR. Phil will take questions from the floor for the panel of Warwick District Councillors and Senior Officers responsible for the delivery of the ambitious HQ plans and car parking displacement plan during the development of Covent Garden Car Park.

Meeting – Option 2: Tuesday 13 November – Morning. Please RSVP. Businesses Only.

Where: Cote Brasserie, Regents Court, Livery St, CV32 4NG

Who: Businesses only invited.

When: 7am.

Details: You are invited you to a breakfast meeting to discuss the Council’s plans for its HQ move and car parking provision during the re-development of Covent Garden car park. A panel of Councillors and Officers will be available for you to ask questions and hear more about the proposals.

Please RSVP: business@warwickdc.gov.uk (by Wed 7th if possible)

We will attend them both – you are welcome to also. If you cannot attend and have any specific questions please let us know and we will endeavour to have them answered.

 

Please also do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to have a conversation about this – work is ongoing. For details of the work we have been doing: https://www.bidleamington.com/work-is-on-going-covent-garden/. Please feel free to pass the details on to neighbouring businesses.

Covent Garden Update

Covent Garden Update

Much is still to be done before a robust strategy is put in place to cover the temporary loss of one of Leamington town centre’s busiest car parks.

This is the view of BID Leamington, in response to an update from Warwick District Council on its strategy to create enough parking spaces to be in place for the 20-month period of when the 468-space Covent Garden carpark closes to be replaced by a new car park, apartments and local Local Authority headquarters on the site.

The report, which was approved by the Council Executive, follows a very well attended public meeting which was held on the 19th of June. Approximately 150 people, around 60 of which were business owners filled the Spa Centre to question Council Officers on the scheme. Among other things the questions focused on five key questions relating to car park displacement, loss of footfall, timing and future provision set out in the graphic below.

Following the 2.5 hour long meeting it was agreed that further engagement directly with the business community was urgently needed, as there were many questions that remained unanswered. It was also agreed that specialist car parking expertise is engaged to review plans.

One month on, BID Leamington are pleased to see that a number of our suggestions have been agreed in the July 25th, Executive Report. This includes funding towards a communications plan and the engagement of specialist expertise to review the WDC’s car park displacement plans.

The review, being undertaken by a specialist parking consultancy which we helped select, started this week and will look at the impact of the closure of Covent Garden Car Park, what is proposed and recommend further measures to minimise disruption and re-balance footfall in the north of the town centre. We anticipate further recommendations may need to go forward to Officers and Members following this work.

Engagement with Warwick District Council is also ongoing. We have further meetings planned in early August, with a focus on addressing the concerns of businesses in Warwick Street who will be among those impacted by the loss of footfall when the car park closes. There are also calls for a follow-up ‘business meeting’ open to all local businesses to take place when WDC plans are clearer.

We are mindful that the proposed closure date of Covent Garden Car Park of January 2019 is less than six months away and there is still a lot to do. Much of the proposed ‘additional car parking’ needs planning permission to be built or in the case of Station Approach will not be ready until late 2019, so we are seeking reassurances that the Covent Garden Car Park will not be closed until an adequate plan is ready to be delivered.

The importance of this has also been confirmed by recent ‘Institute of Place Management’ (IPM) research which identifies ‘accessibility’ as among the top two criteria impacting high street vitality, the other being ‘footfall’. This means we need to welcome and deliver investment that puts these issues and local business interests at the heart of the conversation.

Image: Covent Garden Car Park Meeting – 19th June, 2018. Key Numbers & Questions.
Prepared by BID Leamington, using figures set out in the Covent Garden Car Park Planning Application (as Approved on 9 Jan 2018) Ref: W17-1700.