Azets Peterborough office client comments

April 13, 2021

As the non-essential retail, including gyms, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality sector reopens today as the UK eases out of lockdown, Donald Boyd, partner and SME specialist at Azets, the UK’s largest regional accountancy and business advisors to SMEs, said:

“In 2008 certain banks were too big to fail. And now the SME powerhouse of the UK is too big to fail as a result of the pandemic. We’re all breathing a sigh of relief as some semblance of normality resumes, but businesses reopening face many uncertainties.

“We hear from SME clients across all industries that their main worries include: retail desperately trying to transition from bricks and mortar to omnichannel while demand has tanked; hospitality and tourism dealing with a customer demand wasteland through social distancing, movement restrictions and changed attitudes; manufacturers and exporters struggling with supply chain restrictions and wholesale Brexit uncertainty; technology and global businesses facing decreased demand and investment as the globe plunges through recession and skills shortages through Brexit and Covid international immobility.”

He added, “CBILs, Bounceback, HMRC deferral, JRS, JSS continue to support Covid-affected businesses. However, this support will fall away and businesses will have to find a way of servicing debt levels, during a deep recession. Many previously viable businesses will topple over the edge by this debt burden. The logical next step to support viable businesses struggling under the pressure of debt, unable to refinance or invest for growth, would be to turn the government’s passive equity stake into a real one. CBILS, and perhaps some HMRC debt could be converted into equity under the umbrella of a state backed investor. This would allow viable debt burdened businesses to raise additional debt or equity, provide an eventual return to the taxpayer and encourage and deliver investment for growth as a partner investor to private equity and banks. The time for Government and business to work together in a focussed and agile way has never been so pressing.”

Azets clients in the South East re-opening on the 12th April give their views:

John McGinley, Managing Director at Bedfordshire-based Surfin Café, a client of Azets partner Tracey Richardson in Azets’ Peterborough office, commented:

“We are very excited about the reopening of our outside areas on 12 April. The shops are used a little like hubs in each town, as they sit on the Market Squares in each. To be able to re-create that central place for people of the towns to come out to, and also encourage visitors back to, whilst maintaining a socially distant and safe environment, not only helps us in our recovery, but other business in the towns too, where our clientele go on to shop after visiting us.”

He added: “After closing again temporarily on 4 January, we restarted with take-away at the end of February. We have had a reasonable customer flow serving take-away, but our shops need the ability to allow customers to spend time with us to eat and drink at the venue. We are optimistic that the improving weather, vaccination programme and easing of restrictions will come together and support our business as it moves forward in what remains a fairly uncertain time, and still fragile trading environment.  All round though, we are just delighted to see our shop opening up again, phase by phase – looking forward to, and hopeful of having a healthier trading period throughout this Spring and coming Summer.”