This morning’s BRC sales figures showed yet again how badly the retail sector is suffering, yet the Government persists with a piece of legislation that penalises both retailers and landlords at what is a very difficult time already.
The changes to empty rates relief, which came into effect earlier this year, were portrayed as a move to help regeneration. Whether by design or simply by being ill thought-out, they have turned out to be a money-making ruse by the Government.
No one wants empty shops. Landlords have no interest in owning property that is generating no rental income. Retailers have no interest in retaining stores that they cannot trade from successfully. However, in difficult times, it’s inevitable that tenants will go out of business or some stores will become uneconomic.
A look at the advertising pages of Retail Week will show that property owners are working hard to shift empty units. But the market is against them – particularly in sectors such as bulky goods retail parks, where no one is taking space.
It’s not often that Retail Week feels sorry for landlords, but in this case it’s hard not to – they’ll be feeling the pain already because the space is empty, so why should they be taxed on top?
Retail plays a key role in regeneration and good landlords and retailers more than play their part, but this punitive tax piles pressure on both industries at a time when they can least afford it.