John Highfield

No festive joy for the business community in uncertain times

IT should be a season of good cheer for the retail sector…but all the signs suggest that Christmas 2019 is going to be tougher than usual for the nation’s shop owners.

Continuing worries over Brexit and the announcement of a December General Election - let alone the increasing popularity of online shopping - seem to be keeping many festive shoppers at home.

And with major high street names like Bon Marche, Mothercare, Debenhams and even Pizza Express facing differing levels of stress at what is generally perceived as a boom time, it feels like many companies will be happy to get the tinsel and baubles set aside so they can hustle in the January sales.

It’s not only the retail sector that is struggling through December, though, with many businesses highlighting the Christmas period as one of the most difficult for successful trade.

But South Yorkshire insolvency practitioner Adrian Graham, of leading Sheffield insolvency and recovery practice Graywoods, says that concerns for the future don’t have to mean a commercial crisis.

And he insists that taking the correct steps to safeguard the future should help businesses to survive another year.

“It is true that a number of small businesses will struggle through the holiday period, paying staff through the Christmas shutdown and also discovering that some businesses will use the Christmas period as an excuse not to pay outstanding bills,” said Adrian.

“For a company already facing a crisis, though, that delay can be critical and with tax bills to be paid by the end of the month, it might seem that insolvency is the only possible action.

“And then in addition to all the usual seasonal problems we have a continuing period of political uncertainty, which is no help to an already nervous business community.

“Businesses are concerned about the future and nobody is quite sure where the General Election result and continuing Brexit impasse will take us, so it will hardly be surprising if people take a slower approach to investment, not making major purchases and if they do have cash available they would rather sit on it instead of spending on something they might regret in the long term.”

Adrian said, though, that for businesses fearing the impact of a year-end slump, there were steps that could be taken to ensure survival into the New Year storm.

“There a range of options that we can utilise to help people to decide how best to deal with their business and financial problems, even in these uncertain times” he explained.

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