The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium has called on Philip Hammond to freeze business rates when he releases his Autumn budget.
Helen Dickinson OBE said the high street desperately needs new businesses to emerge in place of those that have closed in the face of rising costs, and this will only happen if current financial burdens are removed.
She commented: “Aside from short-term weather impacts, there’s no escaping the fact that retail is changing. With fewer people visiting physical stores and fewer purchases being made there, at the same time as costs are going up year on year, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing many retailers reduce their store portfolios.
“As shops close we need new businesses to emerge to reinvent the nation’s high streets. But that cannot happen if the burden of business rates they face continues to rise year on year, which is why we’re calling for a freeze in business rates in the Chancellor’s next Budget.”
The store vacancy rate for the UK currently remains at 9.2%. Counter-intuitively the vacancy rate improved over the quarter in five geographies; however this may be accounted for by temporary lets over the summer taking advantage of space released from stores that have already ceased trading.
Mrs Dickinson noted that the average town centre vacancy rate was lower in July this year compared to last year, driven by a sharp reduction in London, at the same time as other regions, including the South East, saw vacancy rates increase.
Overall UK footfall in July fell by 0.8%, in line with the previous month’s decline of 0.9% and July 2017’s decline of 1.1%.
High Streets saw growth of 0.3% in July, the third month that they have risen. Footfall in retail park locations decreased 0.5% year-on-year, while shopping centres fell 3.4% on the same basis.