Calls for rates reform as shop vacancies peak

14th August 2019.

Shop vacancy rate worst since 2015

The number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest for four years, according to a British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

The vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, its highest level since January 2015, while footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

 Tesco CFO pushes for rates reform

Tesco finance chief Alan Stewart has been trying to drum up support from rival retailers to pressure the Government into reforming business rates.  Mr Stewart wants the UK’s biggest supermarkets to publicly support a 20% cut to rates and a 2% levy on online retail sales.

More than 50 join the cause

More than 50 UK retailers have signed a letter calling for the Government to reform the ‘broken business rates system’,  urging the chancellor to change tax rules to boost the UK High Street

They wanted the outdated system modernised.

Companies including Boots and Asda have written to the Chancellor arguing that a change in tax rules could help to boost the British high street. The group noted that the tax had risen by 50% since the 1990s and had prompted some retailers to stop trading.

It comes as vacancies in the high street peak and  follows after the Treasury announced a £3.6 billion fund last month “to support our high streets and town centres”. It added Chancellor Sajid Javid would give more details on the programme over the coming weeks and months.

The letter, co-ordinated by the British Retail Consortium, explained that retail constitutes 5% of the British economy but the sector pays 25% of all business rates. It said this “disparity” is detrimental to high streets and “harming the communities they support”.
It said as a result there were a growing number of empty shops, with vacancy rates at a four-and-a-half year high

Other proposals outlined in the letter includes businesses in London and the South East paying more in business rates in order to take the pressure off companies in the North and the Midlands