‘Paying quickly has never been more important’ UK Small Business Commissioner Liz Barclay has a seasonal message for large business finance teams.

Given the number of shoppers I saw out and about over the weekend, the bumper pre-Christmas spending spree shops, restaurants and pubs were hoping for won’t have materialised. Indications are that footfall in town centres was significantly lower than researchers and retail groups were expecting. Optimism about Christmas celebrations this year is being replaced by caution about Covid variants.

If you’ve still got shopping to do, think small and local, and if you’ve got payments to tidy up before the holidays, please pay the small suppliers as a matter of urgency. They need all the help they can get to survive.

We’ve been hearing from small suppliers that previously good customers, renowned for paying well, are now delaying payments. Many firms are struggling to pay their suppliers because their customers aren’t paying them. If you’re sitting on cash and you’ve got debts to settle with small suppliers, it’s not acceptable to delay payments.

We will come out of this crisis, and if you don’t pay talented suppliers now, they won’t be there when you need them next year. Paying quickly has never been more important.

There’s a particular set of issues being faced by the hospitality industry. Restaurants are pleading for help because bookings have fallen through the floor. I feel for business owners who have stocked up to meet bookings for meals no longer required. I have friends in hospitality who are very scared for the future.

If you’ve got payments to tidy up before the holidays, please prioritise any payments to small hospitality firms. December is often an opportunity to build a reserve that can support a quieter January and February. With future customer numbers uncertain for now, settling payments to end the year will help sustain restaurants and pubs into 2022.

Small businesses facing issues with payment from their larger customers can contact the Office of the Small Business Commissioner for help, advice and guidance. Call 0121 695 7770 to speak to one of the Office’s professional caseworkers, or email enquiries@smallbusinesscommissioner.gov.uk.