Industry reacts to Chancellor’s spring Budget

The KBB industry has broadly welcomed a spring Budget from the Chancellor that has offered support to businesses and retailers to get up and running and work their way out of lockdown.

Richard Hibbert, national chair of the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA), welcomed a package of measures that would help support retailers through the next six months.

Hibbert commented: “This is a good news Budget with some key initiatives to help businesses work their way out of lockdown. The extension of the furlough scheme will be a bonus to independent retailers, as will the continuation of the business rates holiday for firms in England.  We await details of the £5 billion scheme for high-street shops and hospitality firms, as there may also be support for retailers within this.”

He also welcomed moves to stimulate the housing market: “With measures to keep the housing market buoyant, the outlook is good for KBB retailers. The new mortgage guarantee scheme to help people with small deposits get on the property ladder, and extension of stamp duty holiday on house purchases in England and Northern Ireland extended to June, will both aid activity and stimulate demand for home improvements

“We are optimistic that in the short term the KBB sector will remain strong. We know that there is pent-up demand, with families having funds to spend that were not spent on big-ticket items last year. The outlook is positive. However, things can still change over the next few months and it remains a challenge for businesses to plan around such uncertainties.”

The Bathroom Manufacturers Association also welcomed many measures announced in the Budget, but was disappointed that it did not address the national retrofit programme it has been championing.

Said BMA chief executive Tom Reynolds: “The stamp duty relief and new mortgage guarantee are great news for the housing market, and BMA members.” But, he continued: “It was disappointing to see no reference to the National Retrofit Strategy in the Budget. It has the potential to unlock hundreds of thousands of jobs and generate an economic stimulus across the country, making a considerable contribution to the ‘levelling up’ agenda. 

 “The focus must now be on ensuring the national retrofit strategy is fully and unequivocally adopted by the Government in the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn, which coincides with COP26.”

The British Institute of KBB Installation (BiKBBI) also welcomed the boost for tradespeople and independent retailers, but chief executive Damian Walters called on the Government to go further to ensure that the industry can play its fullest role in ‘levelling up’ every community.

Walters said: “Many of the measures in today’s Budget will give a real boost to the KBB tradespeople and independent retailers who have had to deal with so much over the past year. In particular, the restart grant and extension of business rate relief will help the showrooms that have had to close their doors through the lockdown get quickly back into business over the coming months. Alongside this, the expansion and extension of support for the self-employed offers a lifeline for the sole-traders that are the lifeblood of our industry.”

And he was pleased to see provision to boost apprenticeship take-up: “The doubling of incentive payments for employers taking on apprentices is also great news, particularly given the urgent need to train a new generation of skilled installers. 

“Our members will be a little disappointed that the VAT relief being enjoyed by other industries is not being extended to the home-improvement sector, particularly given the potential it has to stimulate local economic activity. And while mortgage guarantees will drive activity in the property market, they do little to incentivise people to invest in the quality of their homes. We hope that this is something the Government looks at over time to ensure that homes themselves are valued just as much as home ownership.”

There was a mixed reaction from KBB independent retailers, who told kbbreview exactly what they thought of Sunak’s Budget.

Ripples managing director Paul Crow and member of our kbbreview100 think tank thought it was a good Budget, saying: “I was expecting a lot worse. In fact, I now wonder where the money to fund the cost of Covid is really coming from. I hope it doesn’t impact on public services, as that leads to political turmoil and then we start again. But in short, growth remains the answer, so it is a good Budget.”

At RFK Contracts in Rugby, chief executive and kbbreview100 member Trevor Scott also wondered where the money was coming from but did acknowledge that the Budget gave retailers a ‘fighting chance’. He said: “All those years of Osborne austerity blown in 60 seconds. Makes you wonder if he was looking in the wrong piggy bank. Clearly Rishi Sunak has found a hidden stash. This Budget doesn’t even scratch the surface of paying for Covid. Where will the money come from in the long run? In the meantime, at least businesses have a fighting chance of turning the corner for this and next year.”

Ryan Harris, a director at Harris Bathrooms in Southampton, thinks the Budget has what it takes for them to ‘start with a bang’. He told kbbreview: “Let’s get going. Reinvest, expand, move forward and keep positive. Once we are fully open in April, we will all start with a bang! Payback will soon come along the road, but the stronger retailers who plan and forecast will cover debt and I am sure we will be busy enough to cover it.”

Tony Robson, managing director of Day True in London and kbbreview100 member, broadly welcomed the Budget, but felt it lacked support for SME owners. He said: “I think it was a reasonably placid Budget. The support for businesses to see them through Covid is what had been expected. There are a couple of good initiatives around investment, apprenticeships and training. However, the issue of SME owners’ lack of support has not even been mentioned. You wonder what strength, of any, the CBI and FSB have in lobbying the Government as they seem to have been ignored!”

But Nathan Damarell, managing director of KF Kitchens in Plymouth and kbbreview100 member, was not so convinced that the Budget offered much help to the high street. He told kbbreview: “Did anyone see anything of the so-called help for the high street that was suggested? There was talk of leveling the playing field, but I am not sure I have seen that. Does it help or hinder? I think it remains fairly static for now. Businesses with furloughed staff have had that extended, but once we open it will likely be all hands on deck. There will be corporation tax rises in a couple of years, but that probably will only affect most of us marginally?”

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