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Comment: Time to recognise big retail’s role in economic recovery

Ed Miliband’s ideas to tackle the burden of business rates on small businesses should be welcomed and will help stimulate the more detailed debate that’s needed if a solution to this punitive cost on retail is to be found.

But his plans to make big business pay for proposed reforms to the rates bill for smaller enterprises, by reversing current proposals to cut corporation tax, is not only divisive, it ignores the role larger corporations - and in particular retailers - must play in the UK’s economic revival.

No one would argue that reducing tax on smaller retailers is unhelpful, or that it wouldn’t support a revival of the high street. But moving money from one tax cut for industry to fund another merely shifts the burden.

Moreover, by penalising the success of larger operators, it threatens investment in job creation and international and domestic expansion, which are the hallmarks of the best British retailers.

More worryingly, in arguing that small businesses are somehow more deserving of support, Miliband’s rhetoric adds to a trend in the UK to paint big business as the unacceptable face of capitalism regardless of the individual track records of the companies and industries concerned.

This week alone Amazon UK and John Lewis announced plans to employ an extra 15,000 and 2,000 staff respectively over Christmas. And, throughout the downturn, one only need look at the grocers to see how big retail has been at the forefront of efforts to stimulate employment and train the next generation of workers.

And these arguments don’t even touch on the way large retailers continue to place consumers at the heart of their strategies, often making life easier and cheaper for the public as a consequence. How many other sectors can argue the same?

Furthermore, it will be investments back into the UK economy from these businesses, including some of the large-scale projects seen recently, such as Marks & Spencer’s £200m London Gateway logistics park initiative or the expansion of Asos’ global distribution hub in Barnsley, that will transform this consumer-led recovery into something more sustainable.

As a country we should put an end to the notion that “big is bad”, instead celebrating great British success stories - notably retailers - and supporting the creation of growth whatever its scale.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Big retail do indeed invest alot in the UK but they also make lots and lots of money and should do more to help small retail

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