Shopkeepers warn of ice cream shortage days before heatwave as high bills force them to turn off freezers
“Coming into the summer months, people want chilled drinks and ice creams. I am now losing customers.”
Shopkeepers have warned of ice cream and cold drink shortages as the cost of living crisis forces them to turn off fridges and freezers - days before a heatwave is due to hit the UK. Independent retailers are reportedly at “breaking point” a month after the Government stripped them of any support to help keep the price of their energy bills down, Retail Express magazine reports.
Eligible businesses were given a lifeline last year when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme was introduced, giving them a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices from October to March. But leading up to the cut-off date, it was warned that 7,000 stores could be forced to close if the support wasn’t extended.
As a result several store owners have told the industry mag that their bills have seen a monthly uplift of more than £2,000. Ruhail Shahazad, of Tremorfa Superstore in Cardiff, said he didn’t know how he was going to continue operating if more help was not made available.
He said: “My bills were averaging £800 a month but now they have gone up to £4,700 with no support. There must be more help. Retailers feel suicidal.
“I’ve spent decades building up my business and now when I look at my wife and kids all I can think of is increasing bills.’’ To save costs Shahazad has switched off half the fridges and freezers in his store.
He added: “Coming into the summer months, people want chilled drinks and ice creams. I am now losing customers.”
Meanwhile, David Lomas, of Lomas News in Bury is in a fixed contract with his supplier until December. Despite wholesale costs dropping, he is still being charged 62p per KWh for electricity despite current rates being around 33p.
He said: “The Energy Minister must compel energy companies to renegotiate fixed contracts on current prices. My energy bills have almost tripled to £400 a month for electricity but has would be higher if I hadn’t changed to LED lighting and turned a chest freezer off. It makes me so angry.”
According to The Association of Convenience Stores, there is currently an estimated 6,900 independent convenience stores stuck in excessive fixed contracts. For an average convenience store facing rates of up to 95p per KWh, this would mean paying more than £75,000 per year for energy bills compared with £20,000 in 2021.
An ACS spokesperson said: “Energy companies need to allow businesses to renegotiate their contracts or blend and extend them to relive the acute pressure. We also need the government to support local shops by introducing tax and investment incentives, including reliefs, discounts or vouchers, to enable convenience retailers to invest in energy saving initiatives and in turn reduce their carbon footprint.”
Energy consultant John Lyonds said he had been contacted by a retailer now paying an excess of £3,000 per month since the support scheme ended. He said: “Thousands of retailers are going to fall into this same category and with minimum wage and other costs going up, it’s a kick in the teeth.
“If store go out of business due to rising costs, it means communities won’t get access to vital public services and it has a major impact on the economy as whole.”
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