In a letter to the new Chancellor Sajid Javid, the retailers have called on the government to put business rates at heart of the promised new economic package. The letter, co-ordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), has been signed by the ceos of supermarkets, food-to-go, fashion, homeware, and department store retailers.
BRC said: ‘Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, employing approximately three million people. The industry accounts for 5% of the UK economy, yet is burdened with 10% of all business taxes, and 25% of business rates.’
The letter asks for:
- A freeze in the business rates multiplier;
- Fixing transitional relief;
- Introducing an ‘Improvement Relief’ for ratepayers;
- Ensuring that the Valuation Office Agency is fully resourced to do its job.
The letter states that implementation of these four recommendations ‘could be undertaken quickly, would reduce regional disparities, remove barriers to the proper working of market forces, incentivise economic investment, and cut away at least some of the bureaucracy of the current system’.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “These four fixes would be an important step to reform the broken business rates system which holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets. The new government has an opportunity to unlock the full potential of retail in the UK, and the Prime Minister’s economic package provides a means to do so. The fact that over 50 retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to government.”
The letter follows BRC-Springboard data that shows that UK vacancy figures rose to 10.3% in July – the highest since January 2015. It also comes shortly after the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor revealed that the 12-month average sales figures dropped to their lowest level on record in July, at 0.5%.
The letter’s signatures include: Ann Summers, Asda, B&Q, Bira, Booksellers Association, Boots, Card Factory, Carpetright, Central England Co-operative, Company Shop Group, Costcutter, Debenhams, Deichmann Shoes, DFS, Dixons Carphone, Dreams, F Hinds, Fenwick, Greggs, Harrods, Henderson Group, Iceland, John Lewis Partnership, Marks & Spencer, McKesson UK, New Look, Pret A Manger, Primark, Retra, Rigby & Peller, River Island, Sainsbury’s, Savers Health Home & beauty, Scottish Midland Co-operative Society, Screwfix, Spar UK, Specsavers, Steinhoff UK, Superdrug, The Association of Convenience Stores, The Body Shop, The Co-operative Group, Hamleys, The Original Factory Shop, The Paint Shed, The Perfume Shop, Whittard of Chelsea, WH Smith, Wm Morrison Supermarkets and Well Pharmacy.