Chamber calls for urgent Govt action to help retail & lifestyle businesses

Survey shows self-isolation & debt causing severe impact on employees & owners

Date: Wednesday 21 July 2021

Many businesses in the Island’s customer-facing retail and lifestyle sectors are financially unsustainable due to the combined impact of self-isolation rules, and high levels of debt.

Those are the headlines from the latest Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce survey which gathered opinions from 63 businesses in those sectors last week (w/c July 12th). Looking ahead, Chamber believes that the situation will worsen and is calling for Government to urgently provide more support for retail and lifestyle firms, and their employees.

Rebecca George, Chamber’s CEO, commented: “Whilst Government believe that ‘living with Covid’ is the beginning of the end of the pandemic, the Island’s small to medium sized businesses – and particularly those customer-facing businesses with younger workers – are currently taking the full force of a perfect storm. Our survey revealed that with income reduced by as much 80% compared to the same period in 2020, and limited employees to call upon due to self-isolation, many business owners described the week as the worst they have experienced during the pandemic.”

Andy Corrie, Chamber’s Retail Sector Lead, said: “Some of the Island’s best-known bars, restaurants and cafes look likely to be closed this weekend (July 24/25) in what would ordinarily be one of the peak trading weekends of the year. Not only are these businesses at the forefront of exposure to the virus, many employees are young workers who are not vaccine protected to 2+2 level. People are also being compelled to self-isolate in ever increasing numbers, which is decimating the workforces of these businesses where working from home is not an option.”

He went on to explain how overlapping issues are escalating problems: “It’s a vicious cycle: customers cancel, key employees like chefs and designated officials in licensed premises are told to isolate at short notice, so businesses are unable to earn money whilst their workers lose income for at least 10 days, depending on the time lag to get a PCR test. These workers and businesses need help quickly.”

On behalf of these businesses he urged the Government to look again at support to get them over the final hurdle: “As long as people are being compelled by Government to isolate,” he added, “financial support from Government should be in place to support workers and businesses. This situation is causing disruption to residents, visitors, events, and celebrations, whilst exacerbating financial hardship and stress for small business owners and their employees. Longer-term, a solution needs to be in place to reduce the numbers of people being put into isolation as the transition phase continues.”

Click here to see the retail and lifestyle sector survey results in more detail.