Leading Retailers Push Political Action to Reform Broken Business Rates System

Retailers’ Call for Political Action

Renowned retailers such as Next, House of Fraser, and Currys are urging major political parties to prioritize fixing the flawed business rates system ahead of the upcoming general election.

They argue that these charges, levied on commercial properties like shops, are outdated and unsuitable for the current era.

Concerns Raised by Retail Leaders

The system’s inflexibility is highlighted, with increases anticipated to worsen inflation and deter investment.

Next’s Lord Wolfson stressed the need for rates to align with local trading conditions, emphasizing the disparity between rates and rents in many locations.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of a 6.7% rise in business rates for larger retailers drew criticism from industry leaders like Currys’ Alex Baldock, deeming the move unwise.

Systemic Challenges and Demands for Reform

Retailers argue that brick-and-mortar businesses face disproportionate charges compared to online giants like Amazon, raising questions about fairness.

Retail chiefs, including Kingfisher’s Nick Lakin and Currys’ Alex Baldock, implore the government and potential future leadership, such as Labour, to promptly address the issue without lengthy delays that stall conclusions.

Industry Impact and Criticism

Leaders from various sectors, including Nick Mackenzie of Greene King and Chris Wootton from Frasers Group, express concerns about the escalating costs, suggesting a threat to the industry’s sustainability.

The British Retail Consortium’s Helen Dickinson criticized the government for letting taxes spiral, impacting retailers’ efforts to control inflation.

Political Responses and Industry’s Call for Change

While the Treasury highlights measures benefiting some properties from business rates and shielding over a million businesses from inflation, retailers remain insistent on immediate action.

Some industry figures, like Currys’ Alex Baldock, indicate a more responsive engagement from Labour on this issue compared to the current government.