Restart grants unfair to KBB showrooms, says retailer

A KBB retailer has told of his disappointment at the amount of funding he is set to receive from local government to help reopen his business after months of lockdowns.

Russell Buckley, managing director of Stuart Henry Kitchens in the Wirral, believes that there is an unfair distribution of the money on the high street, and KBB showrooms and other independent retailers are not given sufficient grants.

The restart grant can be up to £6,000, and it is available to any English, rate-paying retail business that has been classed as non-essential. The hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors are also entitled to a grant of up to £18,000.

Local councils are allowed to use their discretion to determine whether businesses meet this grant scheme’s eligibility criteria. Wirral Council decided that there would be three scales to the grant. Those with a “Rateable Value of exactly £15,000 or under”, such as Buckley’s, are being offered £2,667. Only businesses with a “Rateable Value of exactly £51,000 or over” are eligible for the full £6,000.

Hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gyms have the same scale by Wirral council, but their grant starts at £6,000 and ends with the full grant of £18,000.

Buckley explained: “I thought that we would be getting the £6k because that is what the Government said, but I was perplexed to find that hairdressers, leisure and gyms would be getting £8k. In our precinct, there are two hairdressers, both with the same rateable value as ourselves, and they have had the furlough and previous grants that we received. They have been closed the same amount of time as us, yet they will be getting £8k and us £2,667.

“We have been hit really hard by this latest closure and our financial year runs March 1 to end of February, which has meant that we have been closed for seven of the 12 months because we had to. December is a non-starter for us anyway, and when we reopened last June after the first lockdown, we were starting from scratch. It’s the same this time, no leads, no booked-in sales no income.

“I have no idea why gyms, hospitality and leisure are getting more than small independent retailers. This latest restart grant does not cover the rent. Of course, although we opened today, in this industry, you can’t walk in today and walk out with a fitted kitchen, it will be a couple of months before we will have projects starting.”

Buckley has tried to speak to the council about this, but could not get any information or clarification from the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

During lockdown, a lot of independent showrooms saw they were at an unfair disadvantage to the sheds. Buckley said: “When Rishi Sunak announced in the Budget that businesses would be eligible for a restart grant, we were relieved, because we have been closed for the whole of this lockdown with no income to pay the bills other than the grants that were offered.

“This has been grossly unfair because the larger sheds, multiples and merchants have been able to sell online because they have the infrastructure to do it. It would cost us many thousands to set up an e-business website, and of course, the legal jargon becomes even longer. I also know for 100% fact that some independents have had clients in and have been selling them kitchen, etc.

“I appreciate the money will, in the end, come from taxpayers, which I am one of, but if my business is not around to get the sales to pay the tax, then it won’t be me paying it. I have to admit we are struggling, because I took the decision not to break the law, even though we only have about six to eight customers in a week, which are evenly spread, and have put measures in place to protect ourselves and our clients.”

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