Bear in mind the lockdown amounted to nearly three months with an average of £1250 in rent due. If you were to extrapolate this across all 500 traders we are talking an eye-watering figure from a landlord’s perspective. And we have our own fixed costs to pay.
Perhaps walking through the grant mechanism will help get the message across. This grant wasn’t afforded to everyone, it was made available to small businesses to cover fixed costs applicable during the period of lockdown when there had been an effective stop on trade.
To be clear, this grant isn’t there to serve costs accrued in the past. It’s there to help businesses to pay costs such as rent without the benefit of reasonable turnover to offset these.
The grant was not afforded to online or telephone businesses, it was given to businesses with ‘contracted small business rates relievable premises and related costs’. While some traders may operate multichannel such as online too, without their unit in our arcades they simply would not have received grant support. Logic therefore determines these monies should be used to pay all costs in relation to these premises.
Note, in so doing, the grant monies are effectively washing through an entire system in order to keep everyone afloat during this time.
To remind you, Portobello Group deferred all rent collection until our traders received their grants and for those that were not eligible we reduced their rent for the period of closure to reflect storage rates.
In a further effort to support our dealers, we offered a 20% discount in rent if they were prepared to commit to Portobello for at least six months.
Our typical licence agreement grants the licensee use of the premises on Saturdays only, we did not lockdown business, third-party influence in the form of the government did and the guidance is clear on this.
We have reopened for trade as soon as government guidelines have allowed us to; there is no breach of contract as far as I can see. Allowing individuals access during lockdown would have been both irresponsible and impractical given staffing issues, many of whom were unprepared to work given the prevalent risk.
I maintain that those stallholders that do not want to use their grant to pay rent for this period are acting contrary to the intention of the grant itself and also to the unified spirit of Portobello.
I am pleased to say that from our experience the majority acknowledge this and have expressed their gratitude for the support in helping them bank their grant and the further concessionary support offered.
Focus should now be placed on the present and future of Portobello, its survival rests on unity and recognition that a decision to leave has far reaching consequences on both place and fellow dealer.