Stoneleigh farm shop owner says she still feels 'in the dark' about business energy price caps

By James Smith

9th Oct 2022 | Local News

Nicola Reece of Farmers Fayre says she is doing what she can to reduce energy usage to keep her bills down (image supplied)
Nicola Reece of Farmers Fayre says she is doing what she can to reduce energy usage to keep her bills down (image supplied)

The owner of a local farm shop and restaurant has said she still feels "in the dark" about the future of her company after the government's latest announcements about energy prices for businesses.

Nicola Reece of Farmers Fayre said she was doing what she could to reduce the shop's energy usage but the "best case" scenario was that her energy bills would go up by at least £100,000 next year.

Last week the government announced a price cap on wholesale energy prices for businesses, but Nicola said not enough information had been given to company owners and said she did not know what to do next.

"Actually, at the moment none of us fully understand what that means as there is no indication as to what that means," she told Nub News. 

"We are still very much in the dark. And all it has really done is inflate the retail price.

"We have not fixed a new contract because we cannot fix a new contract without knowing what the full package is but it looks like we are not going to know for some weeks. 

"And we may be more fortunate than most because I know a lot of people have already gone out of business because they couldn't afford to pay those charges. It is too late for some people. 

"And unless they give the full details quickly nobody can budget or make a plan."

Farmers Fayre said its customer based increased during the pandemic as it was forced to diversify its offering (image supplied)

Nicola said the current energy crisis was made even harder having had to spend the last two years adapting the Stoneleigh Park business to deal with the pandemic.

Adding a new click and collect service and other offers increased her customer base, but now she said she feels "tired" and "demoralised" by having to "navigate this latest curveball which we have even less control over".

She added: "My biggest thing is that the government supported hospitality through Covid but essentially that money is wasted if they are going to let the hospitality industry die now when we have all just survived. 

"This is actually way worse than Covid because it is out of our control, and let's not forget this crisis is combined with extreme cost increases, dramatically reduced consumer confidence and spending power. 

"So we are getting it from all angles."

Farmers Fayre is now doing what it can to reduce energy usage - removing 30 per cent of its lightbulbs, turning off its large chandelier and even cooking on a wood fire outside once a week.

The shop has also given the go-ahead for more solar panels which it has had to pay for itself after local funding ran out.

Nicola has also had to put expansion plans on hold and is regularly checking supplier prices to make sure she is getting the best value.

"It's relentless," she said.

"Customers will now have heard that there is a cap for businesses but actually that is not the full story. It is not over by any stretch of the imagination. 

"It is so ridiculous you almost put it to one side and think it isn't going to happen. 

"But it is. It is real and it is happening."

     

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