As we all know, recently the retail industry has been struggling – put down to rising costs, weak sales and online competition. A wide range of retailers including Mothercare, Toys R Us, Maplin, Homebase, New Look, and House of Fraser have either shut stores, cut jobs or gone bust – in 2018 alone.
Today, in Bill Grimsey’s latest Grimsey Report, it was urged for the government to reform business rates – taxes on the firm's premises - and freeze them for 2 years, to help retailers with their rising costs. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that by doing this, retailers can save £500 million. They also reported that the retail industry is paying over £7 billion per year on business rates alone – almost 25% of the overall business rate bill. It has been said that these high financial burdens are preventing Britain’s high streets from being modernised and reinvented – perhaps this is why high streets are becoming ghost towns.
Mike Coupe, boss of Sainsbury's backed the urge for reformed and reduced rates. He said how there is no longer ‘’a level playing field between online players and traditional bricks and mortar players’’. He explained how the Government need to review ‘’total business taxation’’. Bricks-and-mortar retailers have complained how online-only firms can benefit from a tax system that makes physical premises more expensive, whilst multinationals can shift to billions of pounds of sales through low tax jurisdictions like Luxembourg.
The Grimsey Report also outlined the future vision for UK town centres. They no longer are to rely solely on shops. The proposed vision includes improved street lighting, free public wi-fi, half an hour free parking in high streets, appointing designers to celebrate the history and character of town centres and creating town centre commissions who would create up to 20-year plans for their local areas. Mr Grimsey himself said how ‘’cities, towns and communities are facing their greatest challenge in history’’ – how to survive in the world today. Unique reasons for why communities should gather in their own areas, need to be created – ensuring exciting and interesting experiences are delivered.
Reports say that 100,000 shops could close within a decade. As well as this, 68,000 retail jobs will be cut if radical changes are not implemented.