British Beauty Council warns of short-lived reprieve in high street recovery without action on rising inflation and soaring energy costs

May 19, 2022

The number of empty storefronts in the UK has fallen for the first time in four years according to new data but the British Beauty Council warns of a potential false dawn and is calling on the Government to intervene to support businesses amid soaring inflation.

New research from the British Retail Consortium and the Local Data Company found that the average vacancy rate decreased to 14.1% in the first three months of 2022 compared to 14.4% in the final quarter of 2021. This was only the second quarter of falling vacancy rates since Q1 2018.

 

However, the British Beauty Council has warned that the recovery could be short-lived amid rising inflation and tax hikes. Electricity prices were 53% higher in April 2022 than a year previously. Gas prices were 95% higher. In addition to sky-high energy bills, since April, hair and beauty businesses are having to cope with higher National Insurance bills, business rate increases and the end of the Covid-rent debt moratorium that protected them from eviction for unpaid rent.

 

The British Beauty Council is now urging the Government to review its policy on energy rebates it announced earlier in the year, to include businesses rather than solely domestic households. The Council says that for 80% of hair and beauty businesses energy is one of their biggest overheads.

 

Victoria Brownlie, Chief Policy Officer, British Beauty Council said:

“No one can deny the immense pressure our sector has been under over the pandemic, and it’s encouraging to see that business owners still recognise hair and beauty as a viable industry on the high street. However, the latest data does not account for the energy price cap increase, which has led to steep price increases for millions of customers. This is on top of staff wages, National Insurance increases and business rate increases, which will be impacting many businesses who were only just starting to get their heads above water. 

We urgently need help for soaring energy costs in the same way the Government helped domestic households earlier in the year. It must be mindful that the hard work isn’t over for salons and beauty retailers trying to build back and recover and as such we are continuing to engage with them on how they can best support our sector to do this successfully.”

 

This early sign of a post-pandemic high street revival follows LDC data which revealed that health and beauty “led the way” in 2021. The sector grew by 1.1% between January 2020 and December 2021* compared to the overall retail and leisure sector, which declined by 3.3%. The health and beauty sector’s resilience has been underpinned by growing numbers of micro-businesses in specific categories. According to the LDC, the number of nail salons increased by 9.1% between January 2020 and December 2021. Barbershops were up 8.9% and general beauty salons were up by 7.7%.

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