Here are the letters from the trade organisations. They contain some strong arguments. Of course, the awarding of compensation to anybody else but farmers with culled animals will be fought by the government but once the business closures start to kick in the case for help will strengthen.
Cash handouts may never materialise but rates relief and other under-the-counter measures may be offered to those businesses which can quantify their losses.
Dear Prime Minister
The Outdoor Industries Association is the lead trade body for manufacturers and retailers of clothing and equipment for walking, climbing, camping and related outdoor leisure activities and welcomes the personal interest you are showing in the fast developing crisis caused by the foot and mouth outbreak. We particularly welcome your initiative, announced yesterday of a task force to address the impact of this disease across the rural community.
The outdoor clothing and equipment supply sector in Britain is worth some
£750m annually and comprises over 500 manufacturers/distributors and 1200 retail businesses. Many of these businesses are located within or very close to the National Parks and other areas subject to restriction, however all outdoor businesses are heavily dependent on visitors to these areas.
Outdoor retailers in the Lakes, North Wales, the Peak District and other parts of the country are reporting significant loss of sales over the past two weekends, down by as much as 80-90% in some cases. A number of retailers are already reducing opening hours and laying off staff. Many in the outdoor sector are writing off Easter and the early season, months which in a normal year would be their prime sales period and for many businesses earn their profits for the year. There is considerable concern that outdoor retailers in urban and rural areas alike are facing dramatic loss of business and many will inevitably fail.
The knock on effect to outdoor suppliers is equally serious. Members are contacting us daily advising of retailers cancelling orders and seeking extended credit. Britain boasts many world-leading outdoor brands such as Berghaus, Craghoppers, Karrimor and Vango and export earnings represent on average 17% of manufacturers turnover. Outdoor clothing and equipment suppliers are typically small businesses and many will be unable to sustain an extended period of weakened cash flow.
The association is supportive of the action currently being taken to combat the disease and actively encouraging outdoor enthusiasts not to enter risk areas. Notices to this effect have been posted on our web site and retail members across the country are placing copies in shop windows repeating the official advice.
Clearly the first priority is to control the spread of the disease and then
to eliminate it. We recognise that this is taking time but hope this will be
achieved sooner rather than later. Nonetheless we urge you to consider now the wider implications of this terrible disease and recognise the case for additional, speedy support for all businesses hit by this problem, not only those within rural areas.
As the disease is contained and restrictions can begin to be eased, we believe a substantial reassurance and information campaign will be required
to advise walkers, climbers, campers and other outdoor users where they can safely visit and feel this too is an area where government and its agencies must take a lead.
In the meantime, I cannot emphasise enough the impact foot and mouth is already having on Outdoor Industries Association members and our concerns for the coming months.
Marketing & Development Director
Outdoor Industries Association
13 March 2001
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
10 Downing St
Dear Mr Blair
Our organisations represent the UK cycle industry.
It is of course impossible for anyone to forecast the full impact of the current Foot and Mouth problem but we wish to make you aware that there is already strong evidence that restrictions on movement in the countryside are having a serious impact on bicycle retailers and suppliers.
Cycling is one of the most popular countryside recreations and many of our members are almost wholly dependent on business from recreational cyclists. At this time of year, all retailers and their suppliers have stocked up with product in anticipation of the new season. These businesses are typically very small enterprises with limited resources and are ill-equipped to deal with the cash flow implications of any prolonged disruption.
Most cycle businesses are highly seasonal and make all their profits in a short period (Spring/Summer). Any delay to the start of the cycling season is certain to reduce sales for the whole year, further weakening our whole industry, and is likely to result in the collapse of some businesses.
We are aware that the government is not yet offering compensation or other forms of support for non-agricultural businesses, but we ask that you ensure that the relevant departments are made aware of the fragility of our small industry and that our concerns are not lost in the noise generated by other more powerful interests.
The cycle industry is a key partner in the governments drive to promote cycle usage, with benefits for health, the environment, tourism, and sustainable transport, and any further reduction in the number of outlets would have an impact far beyond the immediate loss of employment for those affected.
As there are a number of different government departments involved in this issue, we would be grateful if you could let us know whether the government is considering support for non-agricultural sectors affected by Foot and Mouth, and which department we should contact to pursue this matter further.
Patrick Barker David Wilsher
Vice President President
Bicycle Association Association of Cycle Traders
cc The Rt Hon Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer,
The Treasury, Parliament Street, London SW1P 3AG