John Lewis chair Sharon White has urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to replace the current business rates system with a new land tax to even the playing field between online and bricks-and-mortar retail.

White said that significant reform is needed to provide a “much more stable and enduring way to tax” as bricks-and-mortar retailers reel from the impact of the pandemic and subsequent shift by shoppers to online spending.

Speaking to The Telegraph, White said: “If I’m frustrated it’s because we haven’t yet had action on the structural issue, which is that the business rates regime was designed for a world in which retail dominated the high street.”

“Far be it from me to advise my successors, and it’s not straightforward, but I would be looking at land taxes.”

White, a former economist who has previously held the role of second parliamentary secretary at the Treasury, dismissed the idea of an online sales tax as a way of evening the playing filed between bricks-and-mortar and online retail.

“These things are so blended. The idea that somehow there are bricks and mortar retailers and they are separate from digital is just fiction,” she said.

Instead, she said that reforms to how businesses are taxed must allow all retailers to adapt as shoppers’ shift their spending habits post-pandemic.

White also defended the decision not to return Waitrose’s business rates relief and said returning it “wasn’t the right thing to do” as the money helped prevent further job losses across the Partnership.

White said that she expects John Lewis to be “bigger than it is today” and “much more of a lifestyle brand” in five years time, and ruled out any further store closures.