Retail leaders have urged Chancellor Phillip Hammond to deliver “a shoppers’ Budget” and put a lid on “inexorable” rises in costs such as business rates.
Chief executives from across the sector have joined forces ahead of Wednesday’s announcement to call for business rates reform, as they face into the prospect of a stark £270m leap in their bills from April.
The British Retail Consortium argues that, without reform, the rates increases will have implications on retailers’ investment plans.
In its Budget submission last month, the BRC called on the Chancellor ro freeze the business rates multiplier in 2018 and accelerate the switch to using the CPI index, rather than the current RPI.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “As a priority, the retail industry wants to see decisive action to enable British businesses to continue to invest in the needs of their customers and communities by stemming the near 4% increase in business rates planned for April 2018.
“This would be a positive first step towards a more financially sustainable and reformed rates system over the years ahead.”
B&Q boss Christian Mazauric said the proposed increases in business rates “ultimately affects retailers’ ability to deliver value to customers”.
He urged the Chancellor to take “a pragmatic approach to business rates reform that reflects the dynamic state of the retail sector, as well as mounting costs and economic uncertainty”.
Holland & Barrett chief executive Peter Aldis added: “Retailers are grappling with profound changes in shopping habits, squeezed consumers and relentless rises in costs.
“Action in the Chancellor’s Budget to stop the inexorable cost rises and keep down the burden of business rates would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”
Wilf Walsh, chief executive of Carpetright, said the money being spent on business rates “could be much better spent investing in the needs of our customers”.
Walsh added: “The prospect of further increases merely reinforce the need for rates to be capped in the year ahead and for a recasting of the rates system over the medium term so that it becomes modern, sustainable and fit for purpose in the 21st century.”