21 December 2021
The city’s Business Improvement District (BID) GO! Southampton has added its voice to a nationwide #BusinessBooster campaign calling for further funding from the Government to support the hospitality sector during the latest wave of Covid-19, as the industry faces losing £4bn in Christmas trade.
The new ‘work from home’ directive under the Government’s Plan B is threatening the UK’s hospitality sector this Christmas with diminishing consumer confidence resulting in widespread cancellations of bookings during the critical festive trading period.
The #BusinessBooster campaign, introduced by Croydon BID along with UKHospitality, British BIDs, The BID Foundation, ATCM, NITA and others is asking for critical financial support from the Government including:
- Business rate payments in the first quarter to be deferred
- The 12.5% VAT rate is extended beyond its scheduled end in March 2022
- Recovery grants are reinstated
- The Council is encouraged to release unused grants and rates relief to businesses
The Southampton BID is supporting the campaign and has written to Royston Smith MP raising its concerns as well as holding a virtual hospitality roundtable to discuss the challenges local businesses are facing.
Giles Semper, Executive Director of GO! Southampton said: “The announcement of the Plan B measures – and particularly the requirement to work from home – has hit the sector hard and has resulted in many cancellations already. The sector is trying to recover from long closures since the first lockdown in March 2020 and the government needs to step in to provide help. This is the busiest time of year for these businesses, and they rely on the cashflow to get them through until the spring.
“Our colleagues from Croydon BID have taken a lead in lobbying for business support since the very start of the pandemic and we thank them for it. This new letter to the Prime Minister is signed by Association of Town Centre Management, Night Time Industries Association, British Beer & Pub Association and by more than 50 other Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) including our friends in Winchester and Salisbury. We are feeling a definite groundswell from the hospitality sector saying that government can’t assume that Christmas business is continuing as usual. Thousands of cancelled bookings are showing that the timing of the Plan B announcement could hardly have been worse.”
Annaliese Hughes, Managing Director, Mustang Group said: “There is a stark reality facing Southampton that many sectors will not survive this latest Omicron wave because there is simply not enough support in place. Our hospitality businesses saw more than 1,000 cancellations in the first day after the ‘Plan B’ announcement and we expect that to ring true with many other businesses. We simply cannot face a further period of uncertainty.”
Kyle Wilks, Sean Larsen and Jack Purdie, Directors of CRIB Bar Southampton said: “As any hospitality business owner, will testify to, the majority of December revenue is predominantly made up of corporate Christmas parties particularly in a location such as Southampton that has a strong office and corporate presence within the city. Coming into December, every business knew that they had to capitalise on a strong December, in order to recover from a poor year’s trade.
“Unfortunately, due to the speed of growth of the Omicron variant, and the immediacy of its impact on hospitality, it was harder for hospitality businesses to react in time, most receiving unprecedented levels of cancellations. Speaking from our own experience, we have received over 100 cancellations for December parties alone.”
“Rishi Sunak has quoted that mechanisms are in place, such as temporary VAT reduction and business rates relief to help support hospitality, however, in reality, neither of these measures address the immediate cash flow issues being experienced currently and into Q1 2022.”
Anna Copper, Owner of Stakks Pancake House said: “In my view what we are asking for in the Croydon BID letter is very modest, so it needs to be delivered quickly. Every day the government delays is another tough day for each and every hospitality business in Southampton. I took on extra staff for Christmas and I will have to pay them even though they are now not needed. Rishi – you are a son of Southampton. Please help us now.”
Read more about the campaign here.