There was a bit of excitement this week as a couple of retailers that everyone knew were struggling asked their landlords if they could pay their rents monthly.

The bigger surprise is what took them so long. Think of it like your personal situation right now. Everyone’s feeling a bit worse off, bills have gone up and you’re probably not getting a massive pay rise this year. Then the building society asks you to pay three months of your mortgage upfront.

You simply wouldn’t be able to do it and, in the same way, these retailers haven’t got the money to pay three months rent in advance at a time when trading is terrible.

Traditional wisdom says that retailers only ask to pay their rent monthly when they’re on the verge of collapsing. But why? You don’t pay for anything else in quarterly advances and isn’t it a huge irony that, as retailers increasingly tighten their terms on suppliers of goods, their suppliers of property continue to get away with terms that any product supplier would die for.

Of course, what this really shows is that the property industry still lives in the dark ages, where the customer – ie, the retailer – is still perceived to be being done a favour by being allowed to occupy the landlord’s space and pay him rent.

However, practices like this do no one any favours. If Ossian – the owner of Internacionale and Au Naturale – or Ethel Austin were to go under, there wouldn’t be many retailers waiting in line to take over the sort of secondary locations that these retailers occupy. A co-operative approach from landlords could play a key part in helping these businesses get back on track.

But there is a bigger issue here. Retailing is tough right now and cash flow is vital. So which landlord is going to be brave enough to break ranks and say that, on all new and renewed leases, it will switch from quarterly payment in advance to monthly in arrears? The big property companies always say they are progressive and customer-focused – they should back up their words with action and retailers should demand this.