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Remembering the 1996 Manchester Bombing – Day 5

In this final blog post looking back at the 1996 Manchester bombing, we discuss the recovery of the hundreds of small businesses caught up in the devastation.  Those affected by the attack included:

  • 100 shops in the Royal Exchange;
  • 150 shops in the Corn Exchange;
  • 40 small offices;
  • 15 pubs/cafes; and
  • 1 clairvoyant.

The impact on these businesses was profound:

  • They lost access to their premises for many weeks;
  • Stock, fixtures and fittings were destroyed; and, in some cases,
  • Staff were injured.

Small businesses are always vulnerable to unavailability of key staff and disruption to cashflows; but in this instance their problems were exacerbated by a number of additional factors:

  • The length of time taken to settle insurance claims;
  • Landlords required them to sign new 5 or 10 year lease agreements, even if they only wanted temporary premises;
  • The owners of the Corn Exchange terminated all leases; and
  • The owners of the Royal Exchange decided to completely renovate the site over the next two years.

Many businesses would undoubtedly have gone bankrupt if it hadn’t been for a tremendous community effort to assist them.  Within days, special help lines were set up by the council and chamber of commerce; and many larger firms offered temporary accommodation.  Banks offered advice and special loans.  The Lord Mayor’s Emergency Appeal Fund raised over £2m, including individual donations of £250 000 each by local businessmen David Alliance and John Zochonis.  The main contribution of the fund was to disburse vital hardship payments and loans to help businesses restock in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Gradually the recovery gathered pace.  35 businesses from the Corn Exchange were relocated to ‘The Coliseum’ when it opened in August; and another 50 small businesses were relocated to ‘The Emporium’ the next month.  By January 1997, all but 70 businesses had been relocated.  There is no definitive figure for the number of businesses that failed in the year after the bombing but, contrary to some much higher figures that circulate from time to time on the internet, the best guess is between 20 and 30.  This outcome represents a real triumph for the business community of Manchester, but the fact remains that small businesses will always be vulnerable to this sort of disruption.