Tough trading unsaddles town's bike shop
By Simon Hacker | 6th April 2023
"Unsustainable" trading circumstances are being blamed for the closure of a recently launched bicycle shop in Gloucestershire.
Two and-a-half years after it opened on the town's high street, independent bike servicing and retailer K.O.M cycling, in Wotton-under-Edge, has told customers it will soon close permanently.
Tristan Brown, the owner, said: "It's been a difficult decision, but unfortunately it has become unsustainable financially."
He added that workload and his work-life balance had played a part in the decision, with final workshop bookings accepted up to April 22nd.
K.O.M, whose name derived from the Tour de France stage title of King of the Mountains, offered a tune-up service for bicycles for £40 all the way up to a deluxe service for £140.
Speaking at the launch of the business in 2020, Mr Brown, an aerospace engineer, said that the impact of Covid had led him to launch the business.
Mr Brown told the Wotton Times: "The premises on the high street was previously my engineering office. Cabot Design is a small engineering consultancy which has been involved mainly within the commercial aerospace sector up until the Covid-19 crisis caused mass grounding of aircraft and put the brakes on the whole industry.
"They had to make most of their employees redundant, myself included, but after hearing about my plans for starting a bike shop they kindly offered for me to rent the ground floor. That gave me the nudge I needed to start this venture and try and make a career out of something I'm passionate about."
Thanking the community for its support and positivity throughout trading, Mr Brown says he is now seeking work opportunities as a full-time bike mechanic or wheel builder, and is also willing to offer the shop as an investment, as well as find a buyer for existing stock.
K.O.M Cycling's closure comes against this week's seismic change for small businesses as the government's Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS), from April 1st, ends and is replaced by the new Energy Bill Relief Discount Scheme (EBDS).
Overall, the Federation of Small Businesses says the change puts 370,000 small businesses in the firing line, warning that those who fixed their energy deals last year may need to shrink, restructure or close as their bills revert to a higher price.
Using the pub sector as an example, the FSB says cites a pub using 48,000 kWh per year in power and 192,000 kWh in gas which signed a new contract last August. Under the outgoing EBRS, the business would have received £60,000 off an estimated £85,000 annual bill. Under the incoming EBDS, the same business would receive just over £2,000 in support - consequently leaving it a bill to settle of nearly £83,000.
For agribusiness in Gloucestershire, as the NFU points out that the new scheme's absent safety net is a big concern.
Jack Watts, NFU analyst, said: "The EBDS offers far less protection to businesses from volatile energy markets than the EBRS."
The EBRS, he said, saw commodity energy costs in a business' bill being capped, with the government making up the difference between the energy price in the contract and the cap level.
"In the new EBDS, which starts from April, there is no cap. Instead, businesses are afforded a token discount if the contract energy price is above a threshold price."
Against its warning last month of unviable business rates , Gloucester Chamber of Commerce says it is concerned at the year ahead.
Luke Lutman, president, said: "It does seem as if it is all coming to a head – the rest of this year is concerning as we contemplate potential further closures. We have seen quite a few close in the last year and we have had so many years of cycles of crisis; there are only so many loss years before people decide they can't stick it out."
Further contributing factors, he said, include a rise in parking changes for city shoppers, although the extension of the £2 cap on bus fares until June is a welcome incentive for retail activity.
Punchline says: "It's deeply upsetting to report on a business closure of any size. Behind the door of any small shop we find stories of colossal human effort and positivity. These small cogs in our economy are crucial and our thoughts go out to everyone who is brave and bold in starting up their own venture. We hope trading conditions that encourage this vital activity improve – and do so quickly, before any forecast from the FSB takes hold.
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