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ONS inflation: “It feels as if the world is against us” – reaction from 18 small businesses

Today’s announcement of ONS CPI inflation data published this morning, shows UK inflation at the highest level for 30 years at 5.5% year on year.  Wealth managers will be all too aware of the impacts that the current rise in prices can have on business, below we help you to get a feel for what’s it’s really like by bringing you the views and experiences of inflation from a selection of small business owners from across a broad range of UK sectors. Spoiler alert: it’s not good news!!! 

Jamie Rackham, founder of UK Facebook group, Not on Amazon, which has 190k members: “A survey we ran this month of 2000 of our members showed that nine in 10 micro businesses are finding it harder to get by than this time last year, and rising inflation and energy costs, coupled with slow sales due to customers feeling the pinch, were the main reasons why. What was also crystal clear is that the vast majority of small indies do not feel the Government is doing enough to support them, while at the same time letting giant corporations avoid paying the taxes they should. Many of our members basically feel abandoned, with prices of raw materials, energy and their own living costs rising across the board. In the meantime, big businesses, which can afford to slash their prices, get bigger and the small independents are losing out. The post-pandemic financial crisis is really starting to take hold.”

Ruth Bradford of Bristol-based The Little Black and White Book Project“With each day that passes, my concern about inflation is growing as people simply aren’t spending. As a consumer I totally get it, it’s not pretty out there, but as a business owner it feels like I’m on borrowed time. All I can do is hope that the website traffic I am seeing does come back and convert at some point as people still seem to be largely browsing. It’s just so hard to predict anything right now and I can’t help feeling it’s just going to get worse.”

Elizabeth Jones, owner of Balham-based children’s clothings and gift shop, Natural for Baby: “As the owner of a small shop on the high street, I’ve noticed that people are simply not out and about as you would expect, and one of the main reasons is almost certainly people do not have enough disposable income these days. High inflation is to blame for low levels of footfall. I find that when my regular customers come in, there doesn’t seem to be a concern that some items have had to go up in price, as the relationship takes care of that. With new customers, on the other hand, many look at prices and simply leave. A lot of people and potential customers are definitely having to be more cautious with their spending.”

Holly Hinton, owner at Uttoxeter-based web design company, Web Goddess:  “With prices rising in every aspect of our personal and business lives, it feels as if the world is against the small business owner. I’m usually a really positive person, but watching fuel, groceries and all my expenses increase in huge leaps puts extra pressure on me to work even longer hours and raise my own prices to stay in the black. It’s a very stressful time.”

Jem Young, founder of No Forks Given Fabrications: “With inflation so high, it is a truly scary time and it is really difficult to stay positive and upbeat. There’s this real guilt hanging over us that our business is doing really well but not well enough that we can help our family and friends out of the dire position many find themselves in due to rising inflation.”

Amin Khan, owner of sustainable clothing retailer, PrimaBerry: “As a small business owner who works from home, rising energy prices and the cost of living are a huge concern for us. We try to make our items as affordable as we can but we are afraid that, soon, we will have to raise our prices and our customers will stop purchasing.”

Sarah Seymour, owner of London-based Love Absolute Skincare: “As the owner of a micro skincare brand, I’m feeling absolutely exhausted. The two-year battle since Covid began has been long and brutal and now our sales are being hit by the fact people have less money in their pockets. Sometimes no money at all has come in. The battle to survive for micro businesses like mine is real.”

Marianne Clarke, owner of pet portrait and grooming company, Selston Groom and Train: “Rising energy bills and the cost of living generally means we have stopped putting our heating on when we are cold. I now only use the heating to dry clothes. I wear my dressing gown on top of my normal clothes all the time unless I am working. The cost of everything just seems to be going up and up.”

Shirley Leader, director of Petersfield-based woman’s clothing boutique, Velvet & Rose:” The increase in inflation is deeply worrying. Already as a small boutique owner, my energy bill is at a record high. On top of that, it is buying season and we are getting less for our money as fabric prices and duty have increased. We absorb what we can, but at some point something will have to give.”

Michelle Cunningham owner of online boutique Tarelle Accessories: “As an online business selling women’s fashion accessories, our suppliers have increased their prices due to rising raw material costs. On top of that, we import some of our stock from Europe and the shipping costs have also increased. Regrettably, we recently had to pass these costs onto our customers in the form of higher prices in order to keep the business viable. It’s an incredibly challenging time out there right now.”

Louise Reed, owner at children’s clothings and gift shop, Little Nutkins: “I’m really feeling the squeeze in my online children’s business. Stock is getting more costly to purchase and postage charges are increasing regularly. Unfortunately, I can’t just put my own prices up as customers are already very price sensitive and have less money to spend. So it means I’m being forced to absorb the rising costs myself, which is unsustainable. After two years of the pandemic, it’s been brutal for small businesses and now we’re being ravaged by inflation. I can see many small businesses having to close because of it. Hopefully we can ride it out, but there is a lot of turbulence for people and small businesses ahead.”

Jenny Blyth, owner of Storm In A Teacup Gifts: “The current level of inflation means people just don’t have spare cash to spend on things like gifts. Our sales have bottomed out, leaving a wake of stress and anxiety. This inflation is not just draining our pockets, it’s putting a high price on our mental health and that is something which is meant to be priceless. The Government needs to sit up and listen to our cries for help.”

Helen Skripek, founder of the Derby-based caterer, The Butlers Pantry“As a catering company, price hikes across the board are giving us plenty of food for thought. We have to decide whether to increase our own prices and risk losing valuable bookings, or just take the hit.”

Keith Budden, MD at Hampshire-based IT security firm, Ensurety: “I personally think the real reason inflation is hurting so much is that we’ve not experienced it for so long and have forgotten what it’s like to live with it. While hopefully we can avoid double digit inflation, we are without doubt now getting into that inflationary spiral, prices up, wages up, house prices up, interest rates up. Those of us who are longer in the tooth have at least been here before.”

Natalie Bamford, Creative Director of Derby-based Colleague Box: “Inflation is making me feel constantly sick with worry. As a business owner, a home owner and a mum of a toddler and teen who eat us out of house and home each day, inflation is hitting us at every turn. I personally need to take a good hard look at my finances and see where I can tighten purse strings. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be the only one having to do this.”

Craig Bunting, owner of Derby-based coffee shop, Bear“Everything is going up and the impact on the hospitality industry is incredible. Now is the time for the Government to ensure they don’t put VAT back up, too, which will add even more of a burden. It’s also time to review the business rates system. There is little point in investing in high street regeneration if the system is fundamentally flawed, as it is at present.”

Lee Chambers, a psychologist at Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing”Even as a relatively lightweight and agile business, it still feels like there is no way to escape being hit with rising costs from a variety of angles. This is amplified as some of our clients have been hit with significantly rising costs, which leaves us in a position where we don’t want to exacerbate challenges. Personally as a business owner, this is yet another ball to juggle, but after two turbulent years I’m used to all the uncertainty.”

Amy Lainchbury of London-based social media marketing agency, TastyComms: Working for myself, my office is at home, which means my bills are, and will continue to be, significantly higher. At least they will be if I want to be relatively warm and able to power my computer.”

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