01 November 2012

Retailers demand freeze on business rates


Retailers are calling for business rates to be frozen next year as new figures show that average retail sales growth is just half of what it was before the financial crisis began four years ago.


According to the latest distributive trades survey from the Confederation for British Industry (CBI), the DIY sector remains depressed, with 33% of retailers reporting that sales volumes were down in the first two weeks of September, compared with the same time last year.


The CBI has forecast that the economy will remain flat for the rest of the year and that growth next year will be minimal. It predicts growth of 1.4% in 2013, up marginally from 1.2% in August 2012 but says that - quarter-on-quarter - only 0.2% growth is expected.


The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has issued a stark warning that a 2.6 per cent increase in rates in April 2013 would seriously impede retailers' ability to invest and create jobs, especially for young people.


It says that business rates have already risen dramatically in both 2011 (4.6 per cent) and 2012 (5.6 per cent), a cumulative increase of more than half a billion pounds. 


The BRC is calling on retailers to sign its Fair Rates for Retail campaign, run jointly with magazine Retail Week and has written an open letter to the Financial Times, signed by several high profile retailers such as Andy Clarke, president and chief executive of Asda, Alan Hawkins, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association and Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.


As well as freezing business rates, the BRC also wants the Government to control the costs imposed on households by scrapping a planned fuel duty increase due in January.


Its research indicates that consumer confidence has remained close to the low points of 2008 and that consumer spending has fallen for three quarters in a row.


BRC director general Stephen Robertson (pictured) said that its research “vividly demonstrates the lasting blow dealt to households and to retail sales by the crisis of 2008. Any successful economic fight back needs a return to strength for the retail sector.”


Click here to sign the Fair Rates for Retail petition or to find out more.



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