On 30th April, the All-Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG) hosted an oral evidence session as part of its Inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 on the Furniture and Furnishings Industry. The evidence provided to the inquiry, and the report it produced, has since informed the recent lobbying efforts of the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) and the Members of Parliament who took part in the inquiry. The report has also been sent to all key ministers and Government departments.
The inquiry heard from a range of witnesses from across the furniture and furnishings industry, who told the MPs present about the challenges their businesses faced. There were businesses from the hospitality, retail, design, corporate and domestic furniture and furnishing sectors, all of whom offered valuable insight. The businesses highlighted issues with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), accessing Government and public sector procurement contracts, the availability of trade credit insurance, the lack of clarity surrounding Government communications, and the importance of extending the Business Rates holiday,
Subsequent to the inquiry’s oral evidence session, and following efforts from the BFC and the APPFIG members Mike Wood MP and Mark Eastwood MP, the Government has announced the extension of the CJRS to October, the introduction of greater flexibility to the scheme and additional support to aid businesses in accessing trade credit insurance. Furthermore, on 27th April, the Government introduced the Business Bounce Back Loans in response to some of the criticism levelled at the CBILS.
Commenting on the release of the report, Jonathan Hindle, chairman of the BFC, states: “The inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on the furniture and furnishings industry has provided the BFC and the Parliamentarians who are part of the APPFIG valuable insight into the impact of Covid-19 on the furniture and furnishings sector.
“Following the inquiry session on 30th April, the BFC has been regularly engaging with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through weekly calls with Paul Scully MP (Minister for Small Businesses, Consumers and Labour Markets) and through communications with civil servants in BEIS. Parliamentarians have also been raising issues with ministers directly and through written questions.
“Along with the furniture and furnishings industry, the BFC has found a wide range of other trade associations and business organisations from across the consumer goods sector have been making similar requests of Government. Whether that be championing the extension of the Business Rates holiday or calling for greater flexibility in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
“There are still areas where the Government needs to support the furniture and furnishings industry to ensure that it can survive the Covid-19 outbreak. The report highlights that it is not just retail and hospitality businesses that are suffering from the economic downturn, but also the wider supply chain that supports and relies on those industries. Until domestic furniture retailers open and shoppers return, orders that support the supply chain will not happen.”