Walcot woes

A warning from Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse about the impact Brexit is having on the city’s businesses. It follows a meeting she’s had with leading independent traders in Walcot Street.

She said:

“Not only do independent shops contribute to Bath’s vibrant appeal as a city, they also provide jobs which help sustain our economy. These creative entrepreneurs have had to weather the storm caused by Covid and lockdown. Now they are being battered by the Government’s shocking lack of preparation and support for small businesses in the face of Brexit.

“From 1st January, members of the Walcot Street Traders Association have been facing devastating challenges in relation to their trade to and from Europe. Our independent traders are expending vast amounts of time and money trying to maintain their businesses. They are deeply concerned for the future of their enterprises and for their staff.” 

Carmen Schmidt, owner of A Yarn Story.

Carmen Schmidt owns wool shop A Yarn Story as well as Walcot Yarns and needlecraft distribution business Octagon. Carmen Schmidt said: 

“We have been trading globally for several years. I thought the worst case Brexit scenario would be that EU trade became similar to trading with Norway or the US. In reality it is much more difficult and complicated, with complex rules and no clear guidance to be found.

Most of my work time since the beginning of this year has been spent trying to understand the Brexit rules. We still haven’t managed to get a wholesale shipment off this island.”

Bath Aqua Glass owners (from left) Adrian and Annette Dolan with Themis Mikkelides.

Bath Aqua Glass, owned and managed by Annette and Adrian Dolan, has been producing handmade lead-free glass in Bath for 25 years. Annette Dolan said: 

“As the backbone of our local economy, small business needs to be supported not only with Covid issues but with the Brexit nightmare. Exporting and importing has become a logistical horror. Form-filling is a very time-consuming exercise. If we have everyone on furlough, there are only so many hours in a day.

No one in Government seems to be able to help. Business owners are working night and day to keep their businesses going and Brexit issues need to be addressed. It will end up with the consumers paying more and small businesses like ourselves disappearing. If we go, so will jobs.”

Athena Cauley-Yu, owner of Meticulous Ink.

Athena Cauley-Yu owns Meticulous Ink, a letterpress printing and fine stationery studio. Meticulous Ink won People’s Choice in the Independent Awards 2020 created by Holly & Co. Athena said: 

“The main issue is the lack of clarity for smaller businesses like mine. The Government’s online tool for traders exporting goods lists a whole host of things that I might have to do, with no clear direction if I need to do those things.

It’s been a challenge to find definitive answers and to check if I am operating correctly. I’ve also found it very tricky to get any stock from France. For example, calligraphy nibs, a key component of the calligraphy kits I sell, have been unavailable since late November.”

Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse

Wera Hobhouse said:

“With our nation’s economy facing the perfect storm of Covid and Brexit, this Government must urgently address the concerns of small businesses who are the lifeblood of our cities and communities.

They need clear, accessible support to manage new trading regulations so that they can focus on rebuilding and sustaining their businesses.”