Festive lifeline needed to save firms

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Festive trading: operators are hopeful for a Christmas boost (image: Getty/Sinenkiy)
Festive trading: operators are hopeful for a Christmas boost (image: Getty/Sinenkiy)

Related tags Finance Multi-site pub operators

More than half of small to medium business (SME) owners will have to close, put plans on hold or find other employment if Christmas isn’t a successful trading period, research has found.

The data from small business insurer Simply Business polled 263 SME owners and self-employed people across the UK last month (November).

Trade has been weaker this year compared to 2022, reported owner of Robin Hood in Stoke-on-Trent.

Jo Diskin said: “At this point, we’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best. We have fundraisers and parties booked in January and February.

“But have had very few bookings through the Christmas period compared to last year. If trade drops any more, a lot more pubs will close so something needs to change.”

The research also found small business owners highlighted their top three concerns were rising costs and inflation (69%), unable to pay bills (49%) and a negative change in consumer behaviour (44%).

Absolutely brutal

Owner of the Crown Hotel in Newton Stewart, Dumfries & Galloway Ricky Graham said: “To be completely honest, it has been absolutely brutal.

“From the back end of October until now, we’ve seen at least a drop by half week on week over the past six weeks.

“In the past year, the cost-of-living [crisis] alongside the price increase of products and services has had a major impact on my business. Then we’ll have another minimum wage increase in April next year.”

Hiking prices is something many operators have been forced to do because of costs continuing to increase.

Owner of the George & Dragon in Much Wenlock, Shropshire Ben William said: “Rising costs across the board have put pressure on margins.

“We’re reluctant to keep increasing prices as we don’t want to price customers out of visiting. The situation with utilities is well documented and we feel the Government needs to do more to support hospitality businesses."

Community lifeblood

He added: “Staffing for skilled team members is hard. We are a chef down and haven’t been able to find a suitable candidate to have reduced our offering and made the menu simpler.

“We haven’t seen a festive uplift yet, with the school term coming to an end, we’re hoping to see more of an uplift once people are in holiday mode.”

Robust trading over the festive period has the potential of serve as a “much-needed tonic” to help battle against the sector’s headwinds, according to Simply Business UK CEO Alan Thomas

He added: “As four in five SME owners stress how important it is to support small businesses over Christmas, we encourage consumers to think about their local pubs when planning social festivities this December.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities and with more than 5m of them in the UK, together they contribute trillions of pounds to the economy.

“They are quite simply the backbone of the economy and need our support now more than ever.”

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