3rd June 2020
High Streets and local shopping parades were having a hard enough time before Covid 19. It is inevitable, I fear, that even as the lockdown eases – albeit possibly prematurely – the lifting of restrictions will come too late for some businesses that will never open again.
For that reason I would like to express appreciation of two particular groups of outlets that have helped and are continuing to help to see us through the pandemic; Convenience Stores and Pharmacists.
It is always invidious to single out sectors for praise because of the “what about me”? factor. Clearly those working in the health and social care sectors need all of the thanks that they can get, as do the constabulary, the fire brigades, transport workers, schoolteachers and a myriad of other `key workers` who have kept the wheels turning while most of us have been behind closed doors and windows.
I know, though, from the messages that I have received, (It has not all been just about Mr. Cummings!) that very many people who are not quite `shielded` have relied heavily upon the little convenience stores that have set up home delivery schemes – 600,000 deliveries a week nationwide – and have established alternative payment methods to support volunteers buying groceries for vulnerable customers. They have also invested heavily in social distancing measures to keep staff and shoppers safe. I also know that obtaining supplies has not always been easy and that some wholesalers have jacked up prices that the little shops then take the blame for charging. It has not always been plain sailing. While some neighbourhood shops have become hubs in their own right others – in City centres and within petrol stations for example – have faced hardship themselves as footfall has fallen.
Then there are the community pharmacists. With many GPs now rightly working and offering medical advice on-line `the chemist` has been playing an even more crucial part than usual. They, also, have had to invest heavily in social distancing and protection measures that have been only partly funded by Government and Personal Protection Equipment has become expensive and is not always readily obtainable. Having to ration over-the-counter drugs has led, on occasions, to abuse and even reported violence. There has also been an unprecedented demand for prescription medicines at a time when, like every other retail business, staff are themselves sick or self-isolating to protect others.
So when the pandemic is behind us we need to remember all of those who have helped us through the dark days and to continue to patronise them when, as they surely will, the good times return. Money will be tight, both nationally and in domestic budgets, for a long time to come but somehow we are going to have to find the resources to ensure that those who have taken care of us are themselves taken care of. They must not be forgotten.
The Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund, aimed at small businesses, is launched this week. Thanet and Canterbury each have about £1.6 million of a national pot to dispense and applications need to be in within two weeks. Small businesses in shared premises which do not have their own business rates assessment can apply as can market traders, B&B units that pay Council Tax instead of business rates and some charities. The local Authorities can also introduce their own discretionary sector to cover a category that might otherwise still fall through the net. The size of grant will depend upon the number of applicants that qualify and inevitably will not be very large but at a time like this `every little helps` so if you think you are in the running visit the Local Authority (Thanet or Canterbury depending upon the location of your business) website or get in touch with my office and we will point you in the right direction.