Grimsey Review calls for “write off” of £1.7bn Covid loan debt for indie retailers

Grimsey Review calls for
The Treasury has said it was already providing further support and flexibility in loan repayment.
// New Grimsey Report shows that borrowing for indie retailers through Bounce Back Loans estimated to be £1.7bn
// Before the pandemic, borrowing figures stood at £483m
// This means indie retailers now owe four times as much as they did one year ago and were now at risk without gov’t help

Independent retailers face a “mountain of debt” after taking on Covid support loans during the pandemic and now need government help to survive, according to an influential independent review.

According to the latest Grimsey Report titled Against the Odds, conducted by former Wickes and Iceland boss Bill Grimsey, small and/or independent retailers now owe four times as much as they did one year ago.

The report also states pre-pandemic borrowing for independent retailers was £483 million, with extra borrowing through Bounce Back Loans estimated to be £1.7 billion.


The debt mountain had soared because small shops coped with the Covid-19 pandemic by taking on government-backed loans that would not normally have been granted, based on their finances.

Grimsey’s review calls for the government to write off some debt, and warned that without help the UK would a fresh wave of store closures and job losses this autumn.

“Our high street independents have experienced a new-found appreciation during lockdown,” Grimsey said.

“But they’ve also been forced to take on government-backed loans, which they would not have normally been able to get because their balance sheets wouldn’t allow it.

“Now they are struggling to manage a mountain of debt and need help.”

He added: “Britain is at a crossroads and the pandemic has brought about sweeping changes that will make a decisive break with a traditional high street model.

“But we can’t build our way out of trouble. To unlock the potential of our high streets, we need to focus on people, partnerships and communities as well.

“That means protecting small businesses. It means supporting a new breed of digitally savvy entrepreneurs and making high streets a testbed for new thinking.

“And it means promoting high standards and regulating key sectors such as hair and beauty.

“Britain needs a social recovery to lock in an economic one and our high streets should lead by example.”

The Treasury has said it was already providing further support and flexibility in loan repayment.

The latest Grimsey Report reviewed the published accounts of every UK independent business across the retail, services and hospitality sectors with total assets of £250,000 or less.

Last year, Grimsey said nearly half of retailers were in danger of “going bust” even before the pandemic, but a boom in online shopping had hastened the process, adding the “old high street is finished”.

with PA Wires

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette’s free daily email newsletter


  1. For smart retailers who managed the lock-down as well as they could, cancelling forward-ordered stock, selling off current stock online, using the loan scheme, using the furlough system for themselves as well as their staff, as well as the mortgage support system, I suspect the majority of the debt they are in will be from having to pay landlords.

    Landlords have had it so good for so long, having earnt great incomes for selling money for old rope. They are a key part of the reason for demise of the high street, so isn’t it time landlords took a hit, or is that just too much to ask? The government have done enough to support most businesses (not all), but of course it’s up to the government to seek some recourse from landlords, using legislation to significantly reduce rents over the coming years so that retailers can recover the overpayment. Would any British politician have the foresight or guts to do this, well I can think of some advisors who would, but not MP’s I can say with some confidence.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here