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More government support needed for a night-time sector facing a “perfect storm”

By | Published on Wednesday 1 June 2022

Night Time Industries Association

While all those COVID related restrictions may now be in the past, the UK’s night-time sector is still facing a “perfect storm” of challenges and needs further government support to weather that storm and meet said challenges. That’s according to the Night Time Industries Association, which has just published the results of a survey of its membership.

More than 200 night-time businesses responded to the survey, with more than half reporting a 30% increase in operating costs compared to pre-pandemic levels, meaning that 48% are barely breaking even while 20.2% are currently making a loss. As a result 44.7% of respondents said they are ‘unsure’ if their business will survive the next twelve months, with an additional 20.8% stating that they are ‘not confident’ about the next year of operations.

There are various factors causing the steep increase in costs, though the surge in energy prices is a key factor, with night-time businesses seeing energy costs rise by an average of 37% as they renew contracts with their gas and electricity suppliers. Meanwhile, weekly sales are, in many cases, yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. 36.5% of respondents said their weekly sales have dropped by 30% compared to 2019, with 15.5% reporting up to a 50% drop.

On top of all that, many night-time businesses are also servicing debts incurred as a result of the COVID shutdown. Says the NTIA: “The culmination of pandemic debt, growing energy bills, workforce challenges, supply chain, increased insurance premiums and product cost increases have created a perfect storm. Operating cost pressures coupled with consumers with less disposable income have seen the early stages of a recession with slowing ticket sales and visitor frequency”.

“There is still some way to go to see the true impact of cost inflation on businesses”, the trade body adds, “with over 53.8% of respondent businesses still to renew energy contracts. The uncertainty on costs and trading levels has seen over 44.7% respondents ‘unsure’ whether they will survive the next twelve months and 20.8% stating they are not confident”.

With that in mind, it goes on: “We need the government and Chancellor Of The Exchequer to be decisive through a financial intervention. The Chancellor must consider measures to support businesses”. That could include reinstating the VAT cut on live entertainment and ticketing that was in place during the pandemic, and a cap on energy prices for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Commenting on the new survey, NTIA CEO Michael Kill says “These figures are extremely hard to ignore, the situation is worsening day by day, with operating costs becoming untenable. We are starting to see the impact on customers through slowing tickets sales, bookings and frequency of visit”.

“Our industry is still extremely fragile, many will struggle to survive another crisis”, he goes on. “Time is running out, the Chancellor must act now, and answer the calls from the industry to reduce VAT back down to 12.5% and an energy cap for SME businesses”.