Energy Price Cap: Harborne high street businesses tell of staff shortages & energy bill rises in Birmingham

The Proud Sicillian restaurant, Poplar Carpets and Madisson gift shop speak of their high street struggles amid the cost of living crisis

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One of the first things you notice about the Harborne High Street in Birmingham these days is the number shops that have closed and the lack of shoppers. The thriving centre for local business has been hit by the cost of living crisis - and is facing further woes with the energy price cap increase announced this morning (Friday, August 26).

Various businesses on the high street spoke to us about the different problems they are facing such as high electricty bills, staff shortage, and limited spending from customers when we visited. The high street is in one of the most affluent parts of Birmingham and his home to a broad selection of shops, restaurants and bars selling everything from carpets to fine dining meals to gifts.

Inside view of The Proud Sicilian (Credit: Asmita Sarkar)Inside view of The Proud Sicilian (Credit: Asmita Sarkar)
Inside view of The Proud Sicilian (Credit: Asmita Sarkar)
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First of all we spoke with Amy, the manager of The Proud Sicilian, who told us: “We pay minimum wage but obviously a lot of people are looking for jobs that pay more than that. It’s tricky when it comes to employeeing or retaining staff, which is obviously annoying. Everyone’s got stuff to pay for so fair enough. We have been less busy and the hospitality industry will become something that’s not a necessity.

“People will come out only for birthdays, Christmas, special occasions and spontaneously going will die out. We have to work towards making it more of a destination place. Thankfully, special occassions is our thing anyway. Bigger groups are easier for us.

“There’s a shift in why people are coming out, how many people they are coming out with and how much money they are spending. They are definitely not buying as much as they used to. We are getting by.”

She added the electricity bills are “ridiculous” but they are finding ways to target people who have disposable income. “But, this is just the beginning and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” she added.

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They used social media, new menus and the community groups on Facebook to help grow their business since opening their doors in August 2020.

Harborne high streetHarborne high street
Harborne high street

Poplar Carpets on the high street is facing price rises for raw materials. Regional manager Kevin Harrison said the rise in costs used to be once a year, but now it’s three to four times a year. Their electricity bills have tripled and they are facing the pinch. The carpet shop is air conditioned and they end up paying £100 a week for electricity.

They have been in business for 46 years and have seen many ups and downs but they hoped that business would increase after the pandemic, but the cost of living crisis is making it hard for them as well. Their suppliers and manufacturers are affected and even though they position themselves in the middle of the carpet industry, costs are compounded.

Kevin Harrison, Regional Manager, Poplar CarpetsKevin Harrison, Regional Manager, Poplar Carpets
Kevin Harrison, Regional Manager, Poplar Carpets

“We try not to replace employees who leave as soon as they leave. We also try to pass on the cost and absorb some of it. Margins are low now,” he added.

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A gift and card shop Madisson sells lovely decor and trinkets, but their customers too are spending less than they used to. Beverly, the manager of the store, said: “Customers are cautious about spending.”

She said they haven’t yet been affected by the electricty bills entirely - but it is expected in the future. “Imagine the cost of keeping this shop lit up,” said Beverly as she pointed to the well-lit shop.

Do you own a local business in Birmingham? Let us know how you’re coping with the cost of living crisis. You can email [email protected]

An outside view of MaddisonAn outside view of Maddison
An outside view of Maddison

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