The Prime Minister has vowed to help companies damaged by the floods as retail stores continue to be battered.
In Prime Minister’s Questions today, David Cameron vowed to waive business rates for three months and can also defer VAT, PAYE and corporation tax for the same period.
The news comes as retail stores were hammered by both flooding and a resulting plunge in footfall as shoppers avoided the high street.
Shopper numbers in the Southwest, the worst affected region, plunged 30.3% year on year on Monday and 12.6% on Tuesday, according to analyst Springboard.
99p Stores commercial director Hussein Lalani said: “A couple of stores in the Southwest have been affected and the Tonbridge store was a bit flooded. There has been some general disruption as we’ve had difficulties with deliveries and customers are not doing their shopping as normal.”
Footfall in Wales plummeted 18.6% year on year on Monday and 17.7% on Tuesday.
Debenhams closed two stores early in Bangor and Llandudno because of high winds and the basement of its Staines store has closed due to flood damage.
Sainsbury’s car park in Canterbury and B&Q’s in Reading was submerged at the weekend and the Oracle shopping centre in Reading is suffering the same problem.
However, sales of flood-related products have surged. Lalani reported strong sales of mops and buckets in impacted areas, while B&Q said dehumidifier sales soared 44% year on year.
Online delivery disruption
Online deliveries are also experiencing disruption in some of the impacted areas. Courier Yodel, which delivers for retailers including Amazon, Tesco and Asda, said it had no major backlog but was providing retailers with detailed information on the affected areas, including the streets impacted.
Retailers including House of Fraser have also flagged on their websites that consumers in some areas may be impacted. However, multichannel boss Andy Harding said that the disruption was not as bad as when snow covers the country. He said: “We’ve seen some disruption in flooded areas and it is taking a bit longer to get there.”
The disruption could leave lovers empty-handed on Valentine’s Day. Yodel said floristry clients were of particular focus. It said: “We are working in partnership with them so that they can manage their customers’ expectations and ensure that lovers aren’t left disappointed this Valentine’s Day.”
Retailers fight the flood
However, retailers have shown some fighting spirit to battle the floods. Asda has donated £400,000 to local communities through its foundation and has been hosting fundraising events at stores in impacted areas.
Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said: “The least we can do is to try and help those worst hit by the adverse weather conditions.”
B&Q has put an advice section on its website for customers impacted by the floods and is offering free sandbags to customers at its Reading store.
Tesco staff at its Langport Metro store in Muchelney, Somerset have worked for four weeks with local lifeboat teams to send food supplies to the villages and allowed families to pay for the items at a later date.
Meanwhile, Kingfisher boss Sir Ian Cheshire has called for the creation of a national flood plan and has warned that the centre of London is at risk from catastrophic flooding.
Cheshire, who led a government taskforce last year on the role of ecosystems, said he was shocked that the risk to London from a storm surge or a breaching of the Thames Barrier was so little recognised and warned there was a threat of “disaster of epic proportions” in the capital.