'Shop local' plea issued to Berwick shoppers as cost of living crisis hits trade

The people of Berwick have been urged to support independent traders in the town, as the cost of living crisis puts a strain on local shops.

By Andrew Coulson
Monday, 30th May 2022, 3:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 10:55 am

Berwick Chamber of Trade chairman Stephen Scott has also called on the government to increase the levels of business rates relief, so more firms qualify.

Smaller companies in particular are struggling to cope, in part due to inflation hitting its highest level for more than 40 years.

Last week, energy regulator Ofgem said the typical household energy bill was set to rise by £800 in October, bringing it to an eye-watering £2,800 a year.

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Berwick Chamber of Trade chairman Stephen Scott.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak responded by announcing a package of new measures, including every household in the UK getting an energy bill discount of £400 in October. This also applies to second homes.

Although the picture for the next couple of months in Berwick looks good in terms of tourist bookings, Mr Scott and his fellow members are seriously concerned about the impact of the current economic situation for the rest of the year.

He said: “Although the measures recently announced by the government will help, they will not fully compensate for the high inflation, and wage inflation is still expected to fall well below price inflation. So in real terms, most people will be worse off.

“Most businesses are working hard to absorb some of the increase in costs, but passing on some of the increases to customers is unfortunately inevitable.

“Business gas and electricity costs are not protected by the price cap that households benefit from, so this adds to the problem further.

“Many households are having to reduce their discretionary spending – which will impact many sectors, but especially hospitality.

“The early part of the summer season in Berwick is still looking strong, as bookings are often made months in advance and before the extent of the economic crisis was really understood. However, there is concern that bookings later in the season could be impacted.

“Our call to the people of Berwick during these challenging times is to support your local businesses, especially the smaller independent businesses, as much as you are able to.

“You will get a warm, friendly welcome and great service, they are part of our community, and helping them to thrive is crucial to Berwick.”

The British Chambers of Commerce said this week that if the government does not act quickly to help businesses, then rising costs “will put our economy in a stranglehold”.

Asked what he thinks the government should do to help firms trying to stay afloat, Mr Scott said: “The government provided good support to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is right that householders are the main beneficiaries of government support in the current crisis.

“However, I would call for the government to increase the levels of business rates relief so that more businesses qualify.

“This would help more businesses to survive the current crisis and should also provide an incentive for smaller businesses to grow and expand, providing economic benefits for all.”