Representing independent cookshops and housewares retailers, Bira (British Independent Retailers Association), is calling for business rates to be abolished for another year. The plea for Government action follows a damning report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which reveals the impact of Covid-19 on shopper footfall.
Although bricks and mortar cookshops in some locations have benefited from the resurgence in home cooking, this is against a backdrop of plummeting shopper numbers (and a shift to online buying). According to the BRC’s latest report, year on year footfall for 2020 fell by 43.4%. On high streets, the figure for year on year decline was -49.5%.
The Golden quarter saw nearly half the footfall (a decline of 48.4%) compared to the same period in 2019. Northern Ireland saw the lowest footfall decline of all regions at -47.2%, followed by Scotland at -50.2%. Wales saw a decline of -52.3.1%.
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s ceo said: “These figures are a clear indication the impact of lockdowns and Covid-19. Even when shops were open, the high streets (where most independent retailers are located) were only operating at 70% of the normal footfall.
“The situation has made retailers even more vulnerable than they might normally have been at this time of year, and that is why we believe the Government support measures do not go far enough.
“Furthermore, if ever the Government needed evidence that business rates need removing for non-essential retail in 2021/22, here it is.”
Bira member Lawsons of Devon is one of many housewares stockists that support Bira’s call. “I think business rates should be frozen for another year, recognising the uncertainty of the past twelve months and the damage it has done to businesses and the high street” states Liz Lawson, managing director of Lawsons. “The lack of sales has caused a cash shortage for many businesses will need that as a lifeline as they get back on their feet.”
Business rates are currently due to be reinstated this April following a freeze through the pandemic.
Top: High street shopper figures for 2020 provide evidence for the need to scrap business rates for another year, says Bira.