Retailers have explained how they plan to use the £10,000-£25,000 small business coronavirus grant funding, which will benefit “nearly all RN readers”, according to a business rates expert.

A betterRetailing survey of 25 shop owners found that 28% planned to hold the funds to cover incidents such as store closures, 32% would invest in their business to meet changing customer needs and 16% would pay off existing debts. 

A further 12% were classed ‘ineligible’ by their council and 12% were unsure of how to use the money.

For those investing the funds, staff and stock took priority. Eros Retail owner Harris Aslam said: “Fifteen colleagues are self-isolating and we’re recruiting 22 to 23 new jobs. The grant will help with the recruitment process. We’ve also had to go outside our normal supply chains, and with local suppliers, we’ve found that those stores paying up front get the hard-to-find stock. These funds will help with that.”

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Mumtaz Ahmed, owner of Best-one Kennington in Oxfordshire, said: “It will put more on the shelves and in the stockroom, meaning less time in cash and carries, and more time sourcing hard-to-find lines. Availability may be challenging, but the rewards are there. Since finding a new catering supplier, I’ve sold more eggs in a week than I’ve sold in my life.”

South-west England Londis retailer Steve Bassett said he would hold the funds in reserve. “We don’t know how we or our businesses might be affected. My concern will be a lot of staff being off at the same time, and an inability to operate. That cash will soon disappear with no income.”

How to get the coronavirus small business grants

Ian B Sloan, of chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan, said many had started receiving the funds, and added: “Councils have until mid-May, but I think it will be handed out by the end of April. Some are handing the funds out automatically, others are requiring small businesses to fill out forms.”

Sloan advised stores to check with their councils, as those distributing the grants automatically may not have the bank details needed to make the payments.

The criteria for the grants are based on the business trading on and before 17 March (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 11 March (Scotland) and its rateable value (RV). In England, those with an RV below £15,000 will receive £10,000, and those with an RV of £15,000-£51,000 will receive £25,000. 

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In Scotland, those with an RV below £18,000 will receive £10,000, and an RV between £18,001 and £51,000 will receive £25,000. In Wales, an RV below £12,000 will receive £10,000, while between £12,001 and £51,000 RV will receive £25,000. 

In Northern Ireland, those receiving small business rate relief will receive £10,000.

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