Kall Kwiks step up, but MD says SMEs failed by government

Kall Kwik franchisees across the UK have joined the industry effort to support local communities and the NHS, while the head of its franchise operator has said the government has “failed miserably” to support small businesses.

Philippa Fewins of Kall Kwik Staines delivers a set of scrubs patterns
Philippa Fewins of Kall Kwik Staines delivers a set of scrubs patterns

Around 50% of the UK’s circa 40 Kall Kwik franchises are continuing production during the lockdown, with the remainder equally split between those on standby and those that have been temporarily mothballed until the lockdown eases.

However, as well as supporting customers, a significant number of the operating businesses are also using their facilities to support their local communities.

For example, Kall Kwik centre owners at Leatherhead, Staines, Weybridge, Uxbridge, Windsor and Banbury are printing and delivering A0 size dressmaking patterns to Love of Scrubs regional coordinators.

Kall Kwik Northampton has been printing food container labels to support a local chef who is distributing meals to vulnerable residents and Sorcha Thomson, owner of the Romford franchise, has been printing Frontline Hope card packs for a local artist.

While Banbury centre owners Duncan and Rebecca Lynchsmith have been supplying plastic sheets to a local school making visors for the NHS, while Sevenoaks owner Mark Doust has printed signage for a Covid-19 assessment unit set up at a local school.

Kall Kwik UK managing Nigel Toplis heaped praise on the centre owners and staff across the UK network that are supporting their communities.

“Kall Kwik has been a feature of the UK High Street for over 40 years, and we consider ourselves to be very much at the centre of the communities we serve.

“So, at a time like this when everyone needs to step up and help out, I am delighted to see these and so many other centres finding innovative ways to do their part in the battle against Covid-19.”

However, while he was positive about the various government initiatives to support business, scoring it 7/10, speaking for the 40 Kall Kwik centres, which collectively employ more that 150 staff, he said he was disappointed by the lack of direct support for and understanding of small businesses.

“None of the government ministers seem to have any idea what it is like to be the owner of a small business – I don’t think spending a few months in Dad’s software company counts as understanding small business," Toplis said.

“There has been virtually no direct support for small business owners – furloughing aside.”

He was also critical that rates had only been cancelled for businesses on the high street and that the banks hadn’t displayed the required urgency around various government-backed loan schemes.

While he added that it did seem to be slowly improving, he said he “remained less than convinced in the commitment of the banks”.

Toplis estimated that sales across the network in April and May were likely to be 10-15% of what he would normally expect.

“Kall Kwik of course has been around for forty years and as such we have been through many crises – from recessions (multiple) to the crash of 2008 and now to Coronavirus.

“In each case the marketplace has subsequently changed and that has necessitated a change in our approach.

“What has remained a constant though is that we still find that people buy from people and I suspect that this will continue to be the case and more importantly people buy from good people.”

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