17 May 2022

Get out and support our local businesses coming out of lockdown

Derry News business columnist John McGowan says we can all play our in repairing the economy

Brian Tierney

Mayor Brian Tierney meets people enjoying a meal in the Bishop's Gate Hotel.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how now was a good time to start a business.

This week I want to highlight the plight of many small businesses across the city and tell you what you can do to help them survive.

For the past 15 weeks many businesses have shut their doors and either furloughed staff or made them redundant.

Now, however, is the time to get the economy on this Island back up and running.

We can't as a society afford to stay shut any longer.

There isn't the option to stay closed and until a vaccine is found.

This is just fanciful thinking and would bankrupt any economy that attempted this strategy.

We must learn to live with the virus within our society and shield the most vulnerable from it.

The rest of us must take responsibility for our own protection and follow the guidelines set out by government.

Both the British and Irish governments in fairness have risen to the challenge and supported businesses and workers for the last four months.

The continuation of this support indefinitely isn't economically sustainable.

The cost of the support to date has been largely borrowed by governments and will need to be repaid at some stage by raising taxes.

There is no such thing as free money from any government in the world. If you get something from government, it will most certainly will be got back by a tax.

So, let's all accept that we have suppressed the virus and now is the time to re-open our economy and get back to work as best we can in the circumstances.

Now let us not forget that many of our local businesses watched in dismay as their income streams totally dried up in March.

Over the last three months many have had virtually no income, but bills have still mounted up.

Some got reduced rates and rents, however bills unpaid since March are waiting for them now as they open.

Landlords will be looking rent again and creditors will be looking paid.

The Inland Revenue who has been quiet for a while will be back looking for taxes due for last year and on account for 2020.

As these small firms re-open their doors and staff come off government furlough schemes the next few months will either make or break them.

They really need our support folks so please support them if you can.

Very few businesses haven't been affected by this crisis and as the economy begins, the bills may come at them quicker than their customers.

There could be a bloodbath in terms of bankruptcies if physical re-opening is ahead of consumer confidence.

Many local businesses are opening tentatively not knowing if customers will return in the pre-Covid numbers.

For some businesses consumer confidence is their biggest issue.

Many customers might shun these businesses for fear of catching the virus.

The fear factor is still pretty high amongst some consumer groups, but I hope this is confined just to people that fall into the highest risk of infection (elderly or underlying health condition).

For other businesses like restaurants/hairdressers etc. the problem will be the new guidelines and how they effect the delivery of the service and capacity of the business.

A good example of this can be seen in the recent price hikes announced by hairdressers in Dublin before they re-opened.

With capacity reduced significantly due to social distancing and the additional costs linked to cleaning/hygiene etc. many had to increase prices by as much as 40%.

I don't expect increases of this scale in Derry but I have a lot of sympathy for a business that is forced to increase their prices due to reduced capacity.

It's not "price gauging" and has more to do with the current restrictions and capacity reduction.

People shouldn't jump to social media with tales of being "robbed or fleeced".

It's really a case of pricing to survive for many businesses. These next few weeks will be make or break for many companies re-opening after the lockdown so I believe it's our civic duty to do as much as we can to support them.

What can we do?

The simplest answer is get out there and spend if you can afford it.

Put the keyboard down and stop buying online unless you really have to.

Book a meal and get out there and enjoy a might out.

By doing this you are not only supporting your local restaurant but you’re also helping to preserve jobs.

Get up the town and spend a few pound, would be my advice.

What we all do over the next few months can make a huge difference and could help save hundreds of jobs in the city.

If we don't engage with our local businesses, they will be forced to lay people off.

Go out and buy a bed for the spare room. Get that much needed haircut. Take the boyfriend out for that steak dinner.

We really have to support local shops, service providers and manufacturers now more than ever.

And remember, we can do all of this and stay safe if we follow the rules, wear a mask and keep the proper distance. Taking holidays in Ireland or a "Staycation" will also help.

And folks this is not me crying wolf.

Huge jobs losses are already occurring across these Islands as we come out of this crisis.

Intu Properties, which owns or part-owns 17 huge shopping centres across the UK and Spain, including the Trafford centre in Manchester, has filed for bankruptcy already last week.

It will not the last business casualty of the Covid-19 crisis.

So do your bit folks.

Get back out there and spend what you can afford locally, and help keeps jobs in Derry.

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