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British Footwear Association calls for six-month rent-free period for retailers

Tom Bottomley
30 April 2020

In a bid to ease the strain on the UK’s footwear retail businesses during the coronavirus crisis, the British Footwear Association (BFA) has asked the government to give retailers a six-month rent-free period, enabling them to continue to pay their suppliers.

BFA chief executive, Lucy Reece-Raybould, has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to request a “six-month National Time-Out for retailers, incorporating a loan and interest postponement for landlords.”

The proposal extends to suggest government help to assist landlords with possible loans, as well as extensions of leases by an equivalent length at the end of their current expiry “thereby ensuring that the landlord does not lose any income in total.”

The letter also says: “The proposition will benefit high street recovery nationwide and at no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.”

The proposal has been endorsed and supported by the largest footwear retailers and manufacturers in the UK, representing hundreds of thousands of employees. The letter has been signed and supported by JD Sports, Tricker’s, Cheaney, Barkers, Dune Group, John Lobb, Loake, Crockett & Jones, Cheaney, Charles Clinkard, Clarks and New Balance among others.

Reece-Raybould writes: “We believe currently retailers won’t pay their suppliers because they have to pay their landlords, as the landlords present a greater threat to trading opportunities in the future than losing a supplier.

“If the retailers’ landlords would provide them with a break in their rents, the retailers could make a contribution to the debts they have with their suppliers. Thereby allowing their suppliers to make a contribution to the debts they in turn have with their factories.

“Inevitably in a global catastrophe of this magnitude, suppliers and factories will have the same dilemma and my fear is that, consequently, the high street will disappear as we knew it. The UK factories and millions of workers cannot make products without a market to sell their goods, our factories will soon follow the high street into oblivion.”

While Reece-Raybould, on behalf of the BFA’s members, thanks the Chancellor and the government for everything they have done to support businesses and protect jobs throughout the UK, she says that the stark reality is that the landmark achievements gained so far will be for nothing if they are unable to begin trading again, and the lack of income means they are unable to pay their landlords.

The six-month rent-free period would indeed give a breather to the hard-hit retail sector and offer a ray of hope, as Reece-Raybould warns, “without government intervention too many doors will not reopen, and tills will never ring again for British footwear.”

The government recently stepped in to ban aggressive rent collection techniques from certain landlords, but this would be an altogether different story, and a potential game changer going forward for many beleaguered businesses in growing need of further help.

 


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