Rising costs to plunge night-time economy into ‘new period of darkness’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sacha Lord: Inflation and rising costs will have 'business-defining impacts' on sector
Sacha Lord: Inflation and rising costs will have 'business-defining impacts' on sector

Related tags: Sacha Lord, Greater manchester, Finance, Budget, Government spending

The UK’s night-time economy faces a “new period of darkness” amid the cost of living crisis, according to the Great Manchester night-time economy adviser Sacha Lord, ahead of the Chancellor’s spring statement next Wednesday (23 March).

In a warning on the financial pressures of the sector, Lord said the current cost of inflation and economic instability has exacerbated the financial pressures on operators in the night time economy, the majority of whom are already devastated by two years of low trading and who are struggling to overcome Covid-related debt. 

He added: "We are seeing difficulties across the board, from supply chain logistics, price rises in produce and ingredients and surging energy costs, which will only increase over the coming months.  
 
"We can say with certainty that these unavoidable pressures will have huge, business-defining impacts on our hospitality sector." 

Keep VAT at reduced rate

The Spring statement, which will be announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has been anticipated by trade bodies such as UKHospitality and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which have called for an extension to the current VAT reduction.

What's more, more than 250 hospitality business leaders have signed a letter​ urging the Chancellor to keep VAT at 12.5% beyond March 2022.

Hospitality firms currently benefit from a reduction to 12.5% of VAT on food, soft drinks and accommodation to ease pandemic pressures, yet this rate is due to return to its previous rate of 20% come April. 

"I applaud the businesses and operators across the sector who are already trying to mitigate the impacts of the cost of living crisis. I have heard of many who are currently absorbing costs to avoid increasing prices for consumers, but this is not sustainable in the long term,” said Lord. 
 
He added: "Operators will take at least three years to recover from this pandemic and we need to move towards a position where businesses are afforded a period of stability in order to aid recovery and growth.” 

Calming nerves and building confidence

According to Lord, the spring statement was an opportunity to “calm nerves” in the sector and provide confidence. He was hoping to see an announcement that the lower VAT rate would be extended, to provide reassurance to an “already bruised sector”. 

Pre pandemic, the UK’s nightlife industry overall represented around 1.6% of GDP – or £36.4 billion, according to the NTIA, but lost around 86,000 workers as the full impacts of the pandemic were felt.  
 
The value of the UK pub market was also decimated, declining by 61.9% in 2020 alone, wiping £13.9bn off the sector's value. The total UK eating out market was forecast to recover to only 70% of its 2019 market value by the end of 2021. 
 
Speaking on the issue last October, Christian Wakeford, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Night-time Economy and Labour MP for Bury South, said: “As we look to rebuild from the devastation of the pandemic, we must not leave this vital sector behind.” 

Related topics: Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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