The challenges facing bricks and mortar retailers are in the spotlight, with chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing a new £5bn support package for the High Street over the weekend (February 28), ahead of the Budget on Wednesday (March 3). However, Bira (British Independent Retailers Association) and BRC (British Retail Consortium) continue to lobby for an extension of the business rates holiday (in line with Scotland) followed by a business rates overhaul.
In the run-up to the Budget, housewares and hardware stockist, Vin Vara, owner of The Tool Shop Group spoke out for a BBC report last week (February 25). “I pay the same rates at my Islington store as Amazon pays for a big warehouse. Where’s the logic in that? They do 50 times the revenue,” said Vin. Also featuring comments from Bira’s ceo Andrew Goodacre, the BBC report highlighted how the unfair rates system will contribute to more shop closures if not addressed by the chancellor this week.
Vin’s chain of central London stores has diminished from 12 in 2019 to five, with the Paddington shop due to close soon. If business rates are to go ahead from April, the bill for just four stores would be around £66,000.
“We need to think outside the box: how do we get the High Street back? We just need there to be a fair and level playing field,” stated Vin.
*5 Under the newly announced £5bn support package for the High Street (to be elaborated on in the Budget), non-essential retailers will be able to apply for grants of up to £6,000 to help them start trading again when shops can reopen.
* In mid February, Scotland’s finance secretary Kate Forbes announced another financial year’s extension of the business rates holiday in Scotland.
Top: The Tool Shop Group’s Housewares store at Waterloo, London.