Retailers have been told to prioritise remaining a “strong tenant”, following the latest evictions ban extension by the government.
Tenants will now be protected from commercial eviction by their landlord until March 2022, marking the fourth time the legislation has been updated since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Several retailers who were successful in securing a rent payment deal with their landlord over the past year said they were reassured by the decision. However, insolvency practitioner Red Flag Alert’s managing director, Richard West, said the government needs to issue more support to tenants and stop “kicking the can down the road”.
He told Better Retailing: “It’s hard to know why more long-term plans aren’t being outlined to protect tenants fully.
“The government is telling landlords how to play, but they aren’t giving any advice to small businesses to ensure they aren’t continuing to rack up debt.
“It’s unlikely landlords will aggressively ramp up collections because they won’t want to be left with an empty premises.”
In response, West advised retailers to use the next nine months to invest in their businesses to ensure they remain an “attractive tenant”.
“Retailers should be investing money into their supply chain or business strategy, so they can pivot and come out stronger, whether that’s by ramping up marketing on social media, or introducing a new offering,” he said.
“We know landlords elsewhere are giving away limited free rent to attract new business, and they will be encouraged to see retailers not abusing the system and instead attracting people back to the high street, and their premises.”
Struggling stores have also been encouraged to speak to other businesses in their area.
Insolvency practitioner Leonard Curtis’ director, Iain Nairn said: “Communication needs to be prioritised and retailers need to make sure they speak to someone before making any rash decisions. I recommend speaking to other businesses to find out how they are negotiating with their landlord to help build up your own case.”
NFRN national president Stuart Reddish added: “Through no fault of their own, some small businesses have been finding trading extremely difficult during the pandemic, so this news will come as a relief to them.
“Any retailer struggling to pay their rent must speak to their landlord to agree a mutually beneficial payment plan that benefits both parties.”
Find out more on our coronavirus information hub for retailers