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Budget submission

Retailers urge Osborne to help consumers

Princes St shoppingScottish retailers are demanding the Chancellor uses his Budget to give consumers the confidence to spend, while introducing measures to cut overheads.

In its submission ahead of next month’s Budget, the retail sector says it has to find an additional £14 billion to meet the combined cost of the National Living Wage, Apprenticeship Levy and additional growth of business rates over the next four years.

It says these “may have a serious impact on jobs, particularly in vulnerable regions and parts of the workforce” which is “the exact opposite of what we are all trying to achieve”.

Specifically, the sector wants the new apprenticeship level to be phased to offset the impact of the new national living wage.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the retail industry is undergoing “seismic change” and despite official data showing 3,500 fewer Scottish retail jobs over the past year it remains Scotland’s largest private sector employer.

“Responding to these changes requires substantial outlays on ICT infrastructure, a more highly skilled workforce and revamped logistics and distribution capability,” he said.

“This is hugely challenging against a backdrop in which demand is weak, shop prices are falling and government-imposed tax and regulatory costs keep ratcheting up.

“Scotland’s retailers are looking to the Chancellor in his Budget to prioritise measures which will help consumer spending take wing as well as action to assist the industry to invest, specifically cutting costs to business and phasing in the new apprenticeship levy. Rising costs divert and exhaust resources which otherwise would be used to grow the business.”

Retailers say:

  •  The Chancellor should outline a timetable for reducing business rates to help firms cope with the introduction of national living wage (NLW) and Apprenticeship Levy, and hold more frequent commercial property revaluations so that business rates better reflect economic conditions
  • The Apprenticeship Levy should be “phased in” starting at 0.25 per cent of total payroll costs rather than the 0.5 per cent currently planned
  • The timings of future changes to the NLW and national minimum wage (NMW) should be aligned
  • Consumers should be given more confidence to shop across EU borders by aligning UK and EU online and offline consumer guarantees

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