NEWPORT, WALES (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) has published its recommendations for the Welsh Government’s 2022-2023 Budget calling for action to stimulate consumer spending, protect vulnerable consumers and support hard-pressed businesses.

The WRC has called for a number of measures, including: the delivery of the commitment to a retail strategy for Wales; action to stimulate consumer spending and entice people back to town and city centres; and no increase in income tax rates for low and modest earners.

It also demands: avoiding the ‘cliff-edge’ position of a return to full business rates for 2022/23, as well as an increase to the frequency of the business rates revaluation cycle to mirror England and Scotland at least.

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The WRC submitted its Budget paper entitled ‘Retail recovery: enabling the cornerstone of the Welsh economy to thrive post pandemic’ last week to Finance Minister Rebecca Evans MS, who is expected to publish the devolved administration’s tax and spending plans later this year.

Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said: “Much of the retail industry is in a fragile condition, but the forthcoming Welsh budget could provide critical support which could help drive a sustainable economic recovery.

“Whilst we desperately hope we are now past the worst of the virus, the retail industry has been battered and bruised by the consequences.

“Shops have missed out massively in retail sales during the pandemic whilst spending tens of millions to keep colleagues and customers safe.

“To enable a retail recovery, and to ignite the economic and social benefits that will then follow, the Finance Minister should look to initiatives to pep up consumer spending and entice people back to our town and city centres, protect less affluent consumers from tax rate increases, and provide a discount to business rates for retailers, avoiding the cliff edge position that are precariously facing.

“We greatly welcome the news that the Economy Minister will be looking to publish a retail strategy by spring and look forward to supporting this to ensure its timely publication.

“Swathes of the Welsh retail industry remain in a perilous position. A fifth of shop units are vacant, footfall is a fifth down on pre-pandemic trading, and sales have yet to climb back to pre-pandemic levels.

“That indicates the pressure on the industry, but also an opportunity. If we can encourage consumers back to normal spending patterns that will kick-start a recovery for shops, eateries, and suppliers.

“Retail really is the cornerstone of our economy and this budget presents us with a timely opportunity to lay the foundations for recovery and growth.”