BIRA (the British Independent Retailers Association) has said indie retailers across the UK need extra support to survive the cost of living crisis and lower footfall on the high street since the pandemic.
Andrew Goodacre, ceo of BIRA said there were a number of needs they were looking for from the statement, which will be given on Wednesday 15 March.
He said: “The spring statement is an opportunity for the chancellor to put forward plans to grow the economy. Recent figures suggest that inflation is falling quicker than expected and energy prices have also fallen significantly since last year’s chaos. This should allow the chancellor to focus on growth and support for the smaller businesses on the high streets throughout the UK.”
BIRA set out the following points it would like considered:
Business rates need wholesale reform, especially given that for the smaller retailers the rateable values will increase by 10%. BIRA welcomes the higher level of retail discount from April, but also wants to see the multiplier permanently reduced for small retailers to offset the increase in rateable values.
While wholesale energy prices have fallen, the cost to businesses remain high and the energy support for indies will fall from approx. £6,400 to £400 per annum (based on government figures). Support could be grants to improve the energy efficiency of the business. BIRA would also like to see those who signed contracts when prices were at their highest, to be able to renegotiate.
Changes to the tax system with the introduction of an allowance for corporation tax.
Bring back VAT free shopping to the UK. As the number of visitors begins to increase again, we should be maximising the opportunity.
Encourage investment by indie retailers in energy saving/carbon reduction measures.
Reduce the burden on smaller businesses, starting with the reduction of NI contributions. This could be done by reducing the % of NI paid, or increasing the employer’s allowance
Review the apprenticeship scheme and create a system allowing business owners to attract talent to the retail sector and give young people an opportunity to start a career in retail.
Andrew continued: “Whilst the retail sector has changed over the years, there is still a vital role for smaller retail businesses in local communities. Some people might argue that retail shops will disappear as consumer habits change, and yet in the past 18 months we have seen internet sales fall, suggesting that the general public really value the businesses in the local community and the contribution to the local economy.
“Change is a given and the smaller businesses need time and encouragement to change. Many have started, only to be set back by other external factors such as the cost of living crisis or the cost of energy. These are perfectly good businesses who should not be allowed to fail through no fault of their own. Recent positive economic data should allow the chancellor to be positive towards indie retailers in the spring budget.”