Trade thoughts: Should the government extend the furlough scheme for the retail sector?
In last month’s state of play survey by THIIS, 61 per cent of mobility retailers that responded confirmed that they have staff on furlough – either flexible or full-time.
The scheme has proven invaluable throughout the pandemic, enabling companies to keep staff on and preventing a tsunami of redundancies since March. The end of October, however, marks the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is set to be replaced with the Job Support Scheme from the start of November.
As the country enters into an uncertain winter with more stringent lockdowns likely to be imposed, THIIS asked five retail leaders if they believed the government should extend the furlough scheme or agree that it should come to an end.
All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in September 2020…
Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids
“It has undoubtedly been a lifesaver for many businesses that have been adversely affected by COVID-19, however, the furlough scheme has, in my opinion, run its course. It is now time to either get back to work full-time or remodel your business in such a way that it can go forward independently.
“As with all support measures, they are designed to be a temporary crutch to help you back on your feet. They are not designed to be a long-term aid which is to be relied upon for the long term.
“Additionally, it must be remembered that successful, tax-paying businesses are footing the bill. It will have to be paid back in some way. This will only lead to resentment and ill-feeling towards those that continue to draw support rather than deal with the issue of a non-viable business.”
Karen Sheppard, Managing Director of People First Mobility
“Ideally, if we had a crystal ball and could see all outcomes in the future, this would be an easier question to answer.
“There will be, and has to be, a lot of debate over this subject. The government has not got a never-ending pot of money and I believe they will crawl the money back in the near future to replace the money they have given to businesses during the pandemic via higher taxes etc. So, more help now may mean harder times for us for more years to come.
“Retail and holiday resorts lost the three months season in lockdown earlier this year and with the winter season now upon us, things will be quiet. If furlough ends, I think a lot of staff will be laid off over the winter months.
“The staff who are laid off from employment will have little income so will not have money to spend, so the economy will suffer that way – it really is a no-win scenario. Yes, I would love the furlough to be extended so I can keep my staff paid, however, I worry about the future costs to the business from the government if that was to happen.”
Lauren Bromfield, Director of Classic Mobility
“The furlough scheme has enabled us to keep on trading and retain our valued staff throughout what has been an extremely challenging time for retailers.
“Obviously, the future is unclear for all of us but, at present, the furlough scheme is still helping us to stay afloat. While trading is still slower than usual, most of our staff have returned, although on fewer hours.
“It would be great if the government extends the furlough scheme, on a flexible basis, to ensure that retailers can keep trading and providing an essential service whilst enabling them to retain their employees.”
Billy Finnie, Operations Manager of Mobility Scotland
“It’s such a complex and emotive issue now as many businesses and families are still struggling as we’re beginning to see the full impact of global lockdown.
“The scheme in its current format we know is unsustainable but many businesses still need help. I would urge the government to introduce targeted extensions to the furlough scheme especially for small businesses who can prove medium-term viability that would be the key caveat, prove viability and you will be supported.
“We’re now moving into a new phase of disruption, businesses have worked hard to recover over the past few months and we’re getting back on track but we now have to contend with the added issues of supply chain constrictions, scarcity of goods, stretched lead-times impacting sales and cash flow, that’s not to mention regional restrictions, local lockdowns and staff being directly affected by COVID-19 either through infection or self-isolation, this will disrupt the very best-run businesses and make it be extremely difficult to trade.
“Policymakers should look to support viable businesses medium-term to protect the economy and jobs long term. Many businesses may just need a little financial intervention over this second rocky period and if they have managed to navigate through to this stage they’re obviously doing something right and have the passion, drive, motivation, determination and willingness to remain afloat and deserve help if merited, that would make real sense, succinctly, it’s about getting help to the right places at the right time.”
Mike Williams, Managing Director of Ableworld
“We must get back to as normal as possible. The furlough scheme has been a great help to businesses and the community but we cannot afford to just close down the country again.
“If we accept the spike is being caused by the idiots on Bournemouth beach or the businesses & customers who believe there isn’t a problem – some public houses – then I think the local councils should take immediate measures against these people – not just the odd one. Take away the licences of the abusers of the regulations and let it be a restaurant or pub without social distancing & rules in place. Why didn’t we block the roads & restrict the access to beauty spots in more areas?
“Why are we even contemplating holidays abroad whilst there are issues in this country and the rest of the world, no wonder another “spike” has arrived. Common sense should prevail; letting small groups of friends or family be together at home or holidaying in this country along with the workplace where restrictions can be in force and ‘track and trace’ easier to follow.
“So, my answer is a definite no, apart from any industry we force to close – e.g. the travel industry.”https://thiis.co.uk/trade-thoughts-should-the-government-extend-the-furlough-scheme-for-the-retail-sector/https://i0.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Redundancies-and-furloughing-throughout-coronavirus.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Redundancies-and-furloughing-throughout-coronavirus.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Analysis & InsightsCoronavirus NewsCOVID-19 Trade NewsGovernment & Local AuthoritiesNewsroomRetailer NewsSector NewsTrade NewsTrade ThoughtsIn last month’s state of play survey by THIIS, 61 per cent of mobility retailers that responded confirmed that they have staff on furlough – either flexible or full-time.The scheme has proven invaluable throughout the pandemic, enabling companies to keep staff on and preventing a tsunami of redundancies since...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine