Famous outdoor shop lays off staff because of FMD

Independent outdoor retailer George Fisher of Keswick has seen turnover drop by 50 percent, and the 70 staff at three locations have been formally advised that a compulsory redundancy programme has commenced
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Just like the bike trade, the outdoor industry relies on the Easter bank holiday weekend to boost takings in the till.

But with this Easter weekend being a washout and FMD-blighted, George Fisher managers called staff together on Tuesday evening to confirm that all positions at the company's Keswick and Skipton stores, as well as in the popular Abraham's Tea Rooms at Keswick, are being reviewed.

It is feared that over 10% of posts will go. And this is despite the 10% across the

board pay cut already agreed with all staff.

Managing director Michael Standring deplored the lack of action by

government to help businesses struggling to retain staff as cash flow dries

up.

"Despite the various announcements made by ministers in recent weeks we

are not getting the practical support we need. We have been granted a two

month stay on our business rates, however that bill may still have to be

paid and there is no guarantee that the fells will be open to our customers

even then. It is only due to the goodwill of our suppliers and the

underlying strength of our business that our bankers have agreed to an

additional loan to see us through the next few months - but this compulsory

redundancy programme amongst our dedicated staff is a terrible price to

pay."

Andrew Maxted of the Outdoor Industries Association said:

"Fishers have established a magnificent reputation in the outdoor sector. Their two stores have consistently won through to the finals of the Outdoor Retailer of the

Year Awards and the Skipton branch has taken the north of England award in

each of the last two years. It is appalling that this award-winning team is

having to be broken up and our hearts go out to all the individuals

involved. I know many other outdoor specialists are facing similar problems

and repeat the call for urgent, effective action from the government which

to date has shown little recognition of the human havoc this livestock

disease is creating across the outdoor sector."

In a call round to key IBDs and cycle hire centres earlier this week, bikebiz.co.uk found that bicycle businesses in areas blighted by FMD saw a slight rise in trade over the Easter weekend (although, on average, only 75 percent of the usual trade for an Easter weekend with semi-decent weather), however trade has now slackened right off again. SOme IBDs are trading with only 20 percent of their normal takings.

With a war-chest of £5bn, how long can the government continue to ignore the plight of tourist businesses and firms reliant on customers with ready access to the great outdoors. Open the war-chest, Gordon, you could save hundreds of what would be healthy businesses by offering interest-free loans.

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