Chancellor Philip Hammond’s maiden Autumn Statement speech sparked plenty of reaction across the retail sector.
Hammond unveiled plans to increase the minimum wage for those aged 25 or over to £7.50 an hour next April and also revealed a move to bring down the cap for transitional business rates relief from 45% to 43% next year.
The following year it will be lowered from 50% to 32%.
West End retailers will be hardest hit by the hike in business rates, with an estimated £885m set to be added to their annual bill.
Hammond branded the move “good news”, but reaction to that move, and the other policies he announced, has been mixed.
Retail Week rounds up the mood music from across the industry.
British Retail Consortium chief executive, Helen Dickinson
“This was a statement of stocking fillers rather than expensive presents … If there was one missed opportunity today to help boost growth and investment, it was the absence of further measures to reform the business rates system.
“The Chancellor has missed an opportunity to keep up the momentum behind the reforming of the business rates system by bringing down the burden of rates for retailers.
“The retail industry will be encouraging the Chancellor to look again at measures to help alleviate the pain felt on the high street. Despite recent reform measures, retailers are expected to pay £550m more in rates than they do today.”
New West End Company chief executive, Jace Tyrrell
“The Chancellor had an opportunity today to heed the calls of business and political groups, MPs and thousands of businesses throughout London to introduce a more realistic cap on business rate rises for London businesses.
“It will be a huge disappointment to the West End’s retailers that the reduction announced today is so insignificant that it will have little impact on the £885m additional tax that London businesses are due to find each year by April.
“We will, alongside numerous other organisations, continue to press for business rates reform to ensure the capital’s businesses can continue to thrive for the benefit of the entire country.”
Business rent and rates specialists CVS chief executive, Mark Rigby
“The Chancellor has wasted his opportunity today to say anything new for business rates.
“He’s spun the same announcement as he gave in March, yet what he excluded from the Autumn Statement delivery was that the overall yield is going up, and in fact, Government will be reimbursed with everything they’ve promised to give to businesses.”
Bond Dickinson partner and head of the retail sector group, Gavin Matthews
“The Chancellor announced a 4% increase in the national living wage, taking it to £7.50 per hour from April next year.
“While this is good news for the one million plus workers who will receive a pay rise, retailers will be concerned about how they will fund this.
“It will add to their concerns about rising costs – caused by the fall in the value of the pound, the forthcoming rates increases and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.”
Knight Frank national head of business rates, Keith Cooney
“The Government is risking a spate of corporate insolvencies by failing to significantly reduce business rate increases over the next two years.
“Following the rating revaluation, corporates face increases of up to 43% and 32% over the next two years, which will place the future of some in jeopardy.
“The cut in corporation tax is an eye-catching move to attract businesses to the UK, but the Government should be doing far more to support businesses already here.”
Menzies LLP partner and head of retail, Roberto Lobue
“Business rates in particular are of key concern to retailers in London and the Southeast who are expected to see large increases in their rates following next year’s rates revaluation.
“Mr Hammond said the government will lower the transitional relief cap from 45% next year to 43%, and from 50% to 32% the year after, but these aren’t significant changes in a time when retailers were hoping for the increases to be spread much more.”