How COVID is changing the High Street
The Coronavirus has had a massive impact on all businesses world wide, many companies have followed Government guidelines by allowing staff to work from home if they can, this has meant business have been able to continue trading and in the majority of the cases, productivity has increased, costs have been cut and some businesses are looking at making this a permanent change as this benefits both employees and the employer. Where some companies have flourished this is not the case for everyone.
Local businesses in high streets in London are suffering dramatically, with some being forced to close. This past year has presented many challenges and there hasn’t been much certainty either. Businesses have been in and out of lockdowns which has financially impacted stores, forced staff to isolate, to be furloughed and also made people unemployed. Some businesses have tried to find ways to adapt so that they still have a source of income but not all have been successful. After the first lock down in March 2020, there was a glimpse of hope as non essential shops were allowed to reopen, provided that they aided by social distancing and other guidelines issued by the Government, but this didn’t last for long and stores were ordered to close again. The real cause for concern is whether the British High streets are able to survive the pandemic. In London there are just over 1200 high streets with roughly 128,000 businesses, this works out at 23 percent of all London businesses.
Support for small businesses?
As you can imagine with the closure of stores this has caused major problems for everyone, not just the companies or their staff but also consumers. Some business owners have been desperate and were able to apply for loans to help keep their company afloat but these loans come with a risk, banks were only issuing loans to businesses who would provide a personal guarantee. A personal guarantee is an individual’s promise that should their business not be able to repay the loan then the responsibility of repaying would then fall directly to the business owner/ Director, this could lead to long lasting financial problems on a personal level and also potentially personal bankruptcy.
Many small businesses don’t have a vast amount of funds when starting up and also need to ensure that their personal finance's are not affected by their business, this is why people set their companies up as limited companies. The biggest benefit of forming a Limited company is the limited liability protection, in layman's terms this means that if your company runs into trouble your personal assets are secure. Limited companies are treated as a separate legal entity.
This must have been a very difficult decision for small businesses to take out a loan with a personal guarantee. Luckily the Chancellor Rishi Sunak banned banks from requesting personal guarantees for emergency loans. Though there are still many companies requesting a personal loan, we would always advise people and companies to carefully look through the terms and conditions of all loans.
How can you help Local High Streets?
Businesses may not be getting the support they need and that’s why it is essential for companies to develop new ways of doing business. It’s also very important that people can support their local shops by purchasing from them when they can. For many people we know there is a struggle and also a dilemma in whether you can afford to purchase from a local shop when you know you could get it cheaper online. Large companies such as Amazon and similar companies have the ability to undercut smaller businesses on prices and for years this has been pushing companies out of business. Along with the damage that’s being caused by the pandemic what hope do we have for local businesses? Without them the community is affected as there are less jobs, forcing people to commute further to find work which results in less money after paying for travel and less money going back into other local stores.
The impact on British High Streets
This past year has been difficult for all retail stores and with the closure of non essential stores this has brought the biggest blow to the high street, in December 2020 there was more than 26,000 jobs on the line within some of the biggest brands, fashion chains Bon Marche, Debenhams and the Arcadia group (owners of Dorothy Perkins and Topshop) have fallen into administration. With Covid 19 spreading faster than ever it looks like many more could follow in their steps.
With large stores closing down this means that high streets will start to become very empty, this could however help smaller businesses as this limits the competition for them and increases the chance of their stores having more customers, obviously this would only apply once non essential shops open again.
This also means that there is more space on the high street which could allow small businesses to move into, providing that they have the funds to move in. During the pandemic people have been unable to shop in the high streets and this has resulted in a surge of online shopping. Online companies have seen a high increase in sales and this could mean that once things start returning back to normal, the opportunity is there to open a store. Vaping companies are a prime example of this. With vape stores in high streets being closed, people have been looking for UK Vape Deals and have found that they are actually able to purchase E liquids at a cheaper rate than what they could in store. With Online vape shops getting a higher income this could mean that companies take a risk and open up a shop in the high street to increase their sales. Vape deals UK could continue to be purchased online and in store.
Obviously this is not restricted to just E Liquid vape companies, the possibility is endless. Many people as we know have been furloughed or become unemployed and have had to find other ways of finding income. There has been an increase of people making money online with selling products on both ebay, Amazon and even setting up a new business with their own online store.
How can High Street retailers survive?
We wish this was an easy question to answer and in short, we don’t really know. We know how businesses are trying to adapt and we also have some extra ideas ourselves of what could possibly help. We sincerely wish that companies can continue to trade as without these stores many more people could lose their jobs and careers and with unemployment being so high already this could lead to a lot more problems for the economy.
Expanding selling platforms - Many retailers that have faced hardship from Covid-19 have started an online presence to be able to sell their goods as their stores have been closed.
Offering Delivery service - Some stores have managed to create a safe way for customers to click and collect but not everyone can get out. Creating a local delivery service for online orders could be the difference between continuing to trade and being forced to no longer exist. This is something else that many online vape shops have done. Being able to purchase E Liquids vape deals and a nice new Voopoo to keep you off the cigarettes is important and vaping companies understand that.
Combining Businesses or services- Pubs that did not provide food were not allowed to open, the guidelines were that people could have a drink provided they were having a substantial meal. Pubs that had never offered food before had a great idea with allowing customers to bring in take away food so they can sit and have a drink also. Pubs also teamed up with local takeaway restaurants, allowing customers to order a drink and food. This definitively warmed our heart as this meant people were supporting two local businesses at the same time.
Part of surviving is to ensure that everyone abides by social distancing and wearing appropriate PPE. Fighting the Coronavirus is key to defeating it, with the Government not acting quick enough with following Scientists advice, we are in a worse position than many other countries. We need the general public and companies to work together at creating a safer environment. As soon as the spread is reduced we will be able to return to high streets again to help keep our local stores up and running.
The future for high streets is not certain but while changes may come this doesn’t mean that it has to be the end of Towns High streets. Yes it’s great to grab yourself a bargain online but don’t forget your local stores.