In short… not a lot.
But before going into this further, it’s probably important to outline how an events based company model works.
In the wedding industry especially, work is highly seasonal and on top of that, it’s generally one specific day of the week out of seven.
If you are in the Jewish or Asian wedding sector, this is more likely to be Sunday. If you fall into the CofE/secular wedding category, then it will probably be Saturday. If you are lucky to work both industries then your ‘on-site’ days of the week will be both. Very occasionally, some couples will choose a Friday or mid-week wedding.
It goes without saying that this does not mean that this is the only day of the week the suppliers work. As we mentioned earlier, event days often start at 8am and can finish as late as 3am and beyond for most involved. Putting the planning work that is done throughout the year aside, prep days leading up to the day itself can in many cases start on the Monday and post event wind-down will often cross-over with preparation for the following weekend. That could be rehearsals, editing, food and venue prep, or just general organisation and logistics.
In short, even though Saturday and Sunday is the day of the week most of us actually ‘sell’, the reality is that none of us really have a chance to sit down from May 1st to around October 31st.
To put that into perspective, most suppliers generally have around 24-48 prime days of the year that they can sell to be able to cover overheads for the other 320-341.
If a business hypothetically charged around £4k for their services, and 75% of that is on the day costs, that leaves £1k to cover the company overheads and any salaries. This means that for every prime date wedding suppliers lose this year, that’s the amount they will lose by postponing it to the following year and blocking out the same dates for 2021.
So, perhaps a small business owner may sell 40 dates with a £1k profit and have a 50/50 split between running costs and a salary. Even in times such as these when most are running things at the bare basics, many of these costs are essential to keeping the company afloat. They cover; accountancy fees, tax, marketing, social media management, website upkeep, hosting, phone & internet bills, admin help, loan repayments and more. Venues, in particular, are absolutely extortionate to run at the quietest of times. How many stories have we all heard about beautiful inherited country mansions falling into ruin and disrepair because the family cannot afford the simple general day-to-day upkeep? Opening the doors of their home for private hire was the only way many could keep their heads above water, and even with 20-30 bookings a year the margins will still be slim for most.
Many businesses also rely on 3-4 booking fees for cashflow towards all of these running costs each month. With 2021/2022 dates now being taken up by 2020’s postponed dates, most are preparing not to see any significant booking fee income another year or so.
So…back to the main point…
What government support has been made available to help small businesses?
If you are self-employed and have been earning well with no big expenses for the last few years, then you might be okay (although the pre-eligibility checks that have started coming back this week don’t look great). The furlough scheme covers 80% of your average take home pay for the last three years so this generally should be enough to get by for most if you meet the criteria.
The problem is, many suppliers are not self-employed.
Most small businesses have always been encouraged by all official mediums to set up as LTD. This means the directors take a tiny basic salary and then take their share of whatever profits are left, by dividends, once everyone and everything else has been paid. This makes total sense, and doesn’t really affect tax. Taxes are paid on the lot either way.
The government have offered the furlough system to business owners as well, but on two conditions:
1. You stop all work and…
2. They are only furloughing the salary part, not the dividends. The Dividends is the part most owners rely on for income.
This begs the question — if business owners choose to take the furlough, who is going to run the company in their absence when nobody can afford any staff? If the company does choose to temporarily cease all trading, this will leave most with a furlough payment of around £100 — £700 per month. All of which will likely need to go back into the company to keep it afloat. Forget any living costs of the owner themselves.
The government has also offered loans and deferrals of tax, but most are reluctant to sign up for any of these schemes (as well as many many many not being eligible) as it doesn’t solve the problem. Things will only be worse when the repayments come round after losing an entire year’s worth of business.
If you have an official premises, the government has offered grants of up to £25,000. But the issue here is that most suppliers all work from home to try and keep their costs down, so there’s nothing available there either.
That leaves many directors with the minimal support of Universal Credit, which many have now signed onto (again if they are eligible, there are many hoops to jump through here) as the only thing that is available to prop up themselves, their families and their businesses.
With most paying huge amounts of personal, VAT and Corporation Tax for years, it doesn’t seem particularly fair.
So with all that in mind…