Around 88% of independent retailers feel they will be forced to increase prices once the next energy price rise comes into effect this autumn, according to a new survey by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira).
The poll of members was completed August 24-25, even before the latest announcement by Ofgem predicting an 80% rise in energy bills. Among those questioned, 65% also said they would be forced to reduce the number of staff they had or reduce wages, while 40% were considering limiting opening hours and almost 23% are considering temporarily or permanently closing the business.
Bira chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “Businesses are under great pressure at the moment and with some concerned that they need to reduce hours or even close permanently is incredibly worrying for us and the local economy.
“There has been no specific help coming through from central or local authorities to help businesses who are struggling with their bills, which has been very disappointing. While some areas may have hardship funds or slight reductions in business rates, this is not seen across the country. It is clear to us that businesses are being targeted by energy providers to make up for any restricted price caps on consumers.”
Goodacre added that, while business rate relief would be welcome, small businesses would still be paying 100% more this year compared to last year.
“We asked the government not to do this because as long ago as last October as we were seeing huge increases in retailer energy bills. More recently these have been 500%, and keeping rates lower would have helped indie retailers absorb the higher energy costs. They will certainly need help as the rates for electric are increasing daily.”
Bira has written an open letter to the two Conservative leadership candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, urging them to take action by maintaining 100% business rates relief for retailers; persuading energy companies to place a cap on energy increases for businesses; reducing the multiplier for small businesses from 2023/24; cutting VAT for retailers and providing more funding to encourage investment in low-energy technology to protect retailers from higher energy bills in the long-term.