Image credit: Iceland
Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker (pictured right) has revealed he has had to shelve plans to open several new supermarket locations, after the chain’s energy bill rose by £20 million.
Known for its frozen food offering, Iceland’s stores rely heavily on large freezers which require significant power to keep running.
With energy prices already rising considerably and set to increase further over the winter, Walker said the chain is “fighting to keep the lights on” and will therefore not be opening the store locations it had planned to.
In response to the issue facing his business – and the food retail sector at large – Walker has called on Number 10 to adopt a much more radical response to the cost-of-living and energy crises.
Conservative politician and Boris Johnson’s Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is widely predicted to become Liz Truss’s Chancellor following her leadership race win, has previously said “help is coming” to deal with the energy crisis.
However, in an interview with The Observer, Richard Walker said “half-baked” plans offered by the Government to mitigate the effects of the problem would ultimately fail to meet material needs for both businesses and consumers.
“I read that Liz Truss is thinking of further rate relief for small businesses,” he said. “That’s lovely, but it won’t even touch the sides. What they need to understand is [this affects] big business as well as small, because it’s exactly the same trouble we’re in.”
Among the necessary measures Walker has highlighted is an energy price cap for businesses – currently no such protection exists.
The effects of this issue were laid bare in comments made to Food Matters Live by Lynsey Harley, Founder of Modern Standard speciality coffee roaster in Glenrothes, Scotland. She reported her energy bills had risen 423%, forcing her to also axe plans to expand her business.
Walker said supporting businesses is ultimately a means to support consumers too. He explained: “The way for governments to support consumers is also to support business, because unless they do, it will lead to job losses and further inflation.”
With Liz Truss set to take over leadership of the country, the Food Matters Live Podcast asks FDF Chief Executive Karen Betts what she expects from the new PM: