High Streets Initiative · 20 November 2017

Retail leaders call for “shoppers’ Budget” to save high street businesses

Business rates changes
UK retailers are predicted to face business rates increases of £270m

British retail’s most influential leaders have called on the chancellor to deliver a “shoppers’ Budget” this week to help safeguard the future of high street businesses, demanding decisive action on business rates and living costs.

Ahead of Wednesday 22 November’s Autumn Budget, CEOs from B&Q, Holland & Barrett and Carpetright – led by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – have urged chancellor Philip Hammond to soften the property tax burden for retailers by freezing business rates from 2018, with further recommendations aimed at boosting the spending power of consumers.

When new business rates are applied in April 2018, retailers alone face a £270m increase in bills. Retail leaders have previously argued that lower business rates would allow retailers to keep prices low for consumers and to invest in their workforce.

Now, the BRC’s Budget submission to the chancellor has requested heavy action to alleviate this burden for small UK retailers. The organisation called for a freeze on April 2018 rates, an earlier switch to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and to set a revaluation date every three years from 2020.

A shoppers’ budget would also require the chancellor to freeze income tax rates for the vast majority of taxpayers, and to consider accelerating already planned increases in the personal allowance.

Leading the call for a shoppers’ Budget, BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said Hammond had an opportunity to reduce costs for local business owners and help high streets prosper.

“There are few better yardsticks for Wednesday’s budget than the daily realities of local communities, shops and jobs,” she said.

“As a priority, the retail industry wants to see decisive action to enable British businesses to continue to invest in the needs of their customers and communities by stemming the near four per cent increase in business rates planned for April 2018. This would be a positive first step towards a more financially sustainable and reformed rates system over the years ahead.”

Peter Aldis, Holland & Barrett CEO, said: “Retailers are grappling with profound changes in shopping habits, squeezed consumers and relentless rises in costs. Action in the chancellor’s Budget to stop the inexorable cost rises and keep down the burden of business rates would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”

Christian Mazauric, B&Q CEO, agreed that business rates rises would prevent retailers’ ability to deliver value to customers, and called for a “pragmatic approach” that reflected the “dynamic state” of the sector.

“Not implementing the planned hike in rates and establishing robust and regular property revaluations will be two key steps to achieving that,” he added.

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This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.