The High Street faces a tsunami of closures after debt at independent enterprises rocketed five-fold to £2.4billion in the pandemic.
A report commissioned by former Iceland chief executive Bill Grimsey warned of ‘a significant number of business failures’ as government support is withdrawn.
The report found that the 68,000 small independent retailers have seen their collective debt rise from £250million to £1.23billion since the start of the pandemic.
Another 56,000 small independent hospitality firms have increased their debt from £190million to £840million, while borrowings at 20,000 hair and beauty businesses have rocketed from £50million to £300million.
The report said small businesses were forced to take on debt they could not afford to survive, which is ‘tantamount to irresponsible lending’.
Grimsey said: ‘We’ve already seen the carnage of the failure of the bigger companies. Now our independents are struggling to manage a mountain of debt and need help.’