Lights out: Businesses on the brink as costs soar 150%

06:00 29 August 2022

Bosses must take emergency measures to survive as inflation catches them in the crossfire.

Across Norfolk and Waveney, entrepreneurs are cutting opening hours and raising prices, while struggling to hire staff.

At a time when soaring bills mean their customers have less money to spend, around 70% nationwide said rising costs were the biggest challenge facing their business.

A survey of more than 1,000 small businesses by online insurer Simply Business warns that many “have to put in place survival tactics as inflation hits a 30-year high and the cost of life soars”.

EDP’s Your Money Matters campaign aims to offer relief during the cost of living crisis
– Credit: PA Wire

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said further rises in energy bills could ‘push many viable businesses to the brink unless urgent action is taken to support them and their supply chains “.

An open letter to the government signed by UK hospitality and industry bodies warns: “Pubs, restaurants, music venues, nightclubs and hotels have reached the point where many venues are already reducing opening hours from their doors.

“Hotel operators are facing average annual bill increases of more than 300%, putting businesses and jobs at risk.”

The village butcher

Ali Tooth

Ali Dent plans to hang up his cleaver for good at the end of August
– Credit: Chris Bishop

Ali Dent planned to close the butcher and general store his family has run in Hilgay, near Downham Market, for more than 100 years on Wednesday.

He blamed rising energy costs after his bills more than tripled from £200 to £600 a month, with monthly costs expected to top £1,000 a month during the winter.

But while he originally hoped to let the locals out while he rises, the rising cost of living means Mr Dent – who, at 64, is three years away from being able to claim his state pension of £800 a month – needs something to help pay the bills.

He now plans to open AJ Dent on Thursday and Friday mornings with the help of a longtime staff member.

Refrigerator and freezer space is also reduced to save on fuel bills.

Explained: “We had a large walk-in fridge that we turned into a storage room and a walk-in freezer that we turned into a fridge.

“We have a few chest freezers and will be open two mornings a week, which will save on electricity costs.

“We also stopped delivering, so that cut the van.”

The owner

Dawn Hopkins, The Rose, Norwich

Dawn Hopkins, owner of the Rose in Norwich, believes the Prime Minister’s idea of ​​checking if customers have been vaccinated is just “another level of ridiculousness”.
– Credit: Archant

Dawn Hopkins, owner of The Rose in Queens Road in Norwich, said pubs were caught between their own rising costs, those of their suppliers and leaving customers with less money.

“When your bills go from £500 a month to £1,500 it’s very difficult,” she said.

“You either have to raise your prices or say enough is enough.”

Ms Hopkins said the pub was currently on a fixed price contract for its fuel and had therefore not been affected by the most recent hikes.

“My concern in October is how much money my clients are going to have,” she said.

“People are going to have to cut back on spending and what they’re going to cut back on is going to pubs and cafes.

“You’ll probably find that pubs will be open fewer hours, they’ll have to look at when they can open with fewer staff, with fewer lights on.”

The merchant by the sea

Dale Skipper owns Glitter and Mud from The Quay in Wells.

Dale Skipper owns Glitter and Mud from The Quay in Wells.
– Credit: Aaron McMillan

Dale Skipper’s Glitter and Mud business sells printed t-shirts, clothing and gifts on the Quayside in Wells.

Although the summer has been good for the shop she opened six years ago, she knows the seas could be rougher.

“I always had in mind that we got out of the fixed-term contract with our electricity and we’re going to have to swallow that,” she said.

“It will increase a lot because we no longer have a fixed price.

“We won’t know how much it will cost until our first bill comes in, but it’s going to be huge.”

Ms Skipper, who does not believe the government has the situation under control, said she may need to consider making changes to the business, but has not yet decided what those might be.

She added: “We’re just going to have to take it all as it comes.

“I’m not going to start planning and setting everything in stone just yet.”

The recruitment specialist

Tom Ginn

Tom Ginn
– Credit: Bread Hospitality

Tom Ginn, founder of Norfolk-based specialist staffing firm Bread Hospitality, had a more optimistic view thanks to the power of the county’s freelancers.

He said: “It’s going to be a rough few months but I think the county will come out the other side thanks to the brilliant independents we have here.

“We have already seen so much regeneration since Covid – just look at the Royal Arcade in Norwich.

“Businesses that have closed have been replaced by those with more of a leisure offering and I think we will continue to see that.

“We have two markets in Norfolk – the more commercial side like Norwich and then the tourist side on the coast. The coast has had a pretty solid tourist summer. It’s not a record, but it will help get them through.

“The cost of living impact that we are seeing on the recruiting side is that salaries are going up 15-25% for roles like chefs. There was a shortage before the crisis and there is still one today.

“The difference is that with rising costs, people don’t want to buy gas for an hour’s journey. So that’s being passed on and we’re seeing increases there.

“Some sites pay this because they want to be fully staffed and get customers through the door.”

Lights out: Businesses on the brink as costs soar 150%

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