BRC urges government to extend credit insurance scheme
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is lobbying the government to extend the scheme that guarantees trade credit insurance. The move comes amid fears that many retailers could be left coverless when the support scheme ends on 30 June.
Importantly, it could leave some retailers having to pay upfront for goods in the run-up to Christmas, tying up much-needed cash after the toughest of trading years.
The trade credit reinsurance scheme was introduced in May 2020 and offers indemnities to specialist insurers who cover suppliers against the risk of non-payment by their customers.
It was extended in December but it will now finish at the end of the month, the same time as the moratorium on evictions for property renters ends.
According to the Financial Times, the BRC has written to business minister Paul Scully arguing that if insurers base risk assessments on retailers’ recent financial performance, many will be left without cover.
The letter said the withdrawal of support was a “significant concern” and that members “are already hearing from multiple suppliers that the large insurers have stated they will remove cover”.
Insurers typically require at least six months of consistently strong trading data before reassessing coverage decisions, the BRC said.
“Clearly this is not yet possible for the significant proportion of the retail industry that has remained closed for the majority of 2020-21”.
Even where retailers have provided provisional data, insurers have been slow to revisit underwriting decisions, the letter added, although insurers maintain that overall coverage is largely back to pre-pandemic levels and they are making allowances for the disruption to trade over the past year.
But suppliers, and their lenders, may be nervous about extending uninsured credit to retailers whose balance sheets have been damaged by the enforced closure of stores during lockdowns.
“It is a massive issue for us,” an unnamed chief executive of one smaller apparel retailer told the newspaper. “Around 10% of my annual turnover is tied up in prepayments that I wouldn’t have to make if my suppliers could insure against me. I’d be able to double my annual capital spending.
“I’ve presented to all the credit insurers and they are supportive of the plans, but they want to see two years of profits”, he added.
The business rates holiday also ends on 30 June, though a discount is still available for smaller retailers, and the furlough scheme will wind down over the summer.
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