Award-winning national jeweller, F Hinds, is concerned for the future of retail outside big cities and shopping malls.
Discussing the government’s business rates system with the BBC, director, Andrew Hinds, says it is having a devastating effect on smaller towns.
“We have stores in various different locations – cities, towns, out-of-town shopping centres. But we fear for the future of smaller towns in more rural locations,” Hinds tell the BBC. “In a smaller town, if you lose a few retailers, you lose critical mass and there’s less reason for people to go into town.”
Hinds reveals that for more than a decade, F Hinds have been opening new shops in larger places rather than smaller ones.
“The smaller towns that we’re in already are becoming less vibrant,” he shares. “Eventually, older people and poorer people will have less access to shopping, because they can’t drive 50 miles to the nearest supermall.
“If we don’t reduce the cost of doing business in these towns to a sustainable level, we will kill their high streets.”
For that reason, F Hinds has joined forces with more than 50 other retailers to write a letter to Chancellor Sajid Javid calling for business rates reform.
The signatories include the bosses of leading supermarkets, department stores and other big high street names, including Marks & Spencer, Superdrug, Debenhams, and Boots.
The campaign also has the backing of the British Retail Consortium, whose chief executive, Helen Dickinson, called on Javid to address retailers’ concerns in next month’s Budget.
The letter highlights how the system is broken and that the “burden of business rates has become unsustainable for many retailers”.
Among other changes, they want businesses to be able to appeal against excessive business rates.
Hinds says the burden of the system falls disproportionately on retailers, who make up 5% of the economy but pay 25% of all business rates.
F Hinds has 127 shops across the UK, which makes it too big to qualify for business rates relief from the government. Hinds jokes that they would fare better if they could relaunch as 127 small businesses.