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'Wake-up call' for policy makers

Retailers call for action as shops axe more jobs

David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale: ‘profoundly challenging and volatile times’ (photo by Terry Murden)

Retailers are demanding action to reduce costs which are forcing companies out of business and putting shop staff out of work.

With a growing list of household names such as Maplin and Toys RUs putting up the shutters, retail trade bosses are calling for a further reform of business rates to ease growing pressures.

The British Retail Consortium today reports that the number of shop workers fell by 2.5% in the last quarter as shops closed or cut back.  Store numbers fell by 2.3%.

Retailers want policy makers to accept that a range of cost burdens such as the apprenticeship levy will put more staff out of work.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Our latest employment figures show how the retail industry is going through a continued period of significant transition.

“The expected further rises in business rates and employment costs are contributing to the pressure on retailers to close stores and reduce job numbers further.

“Policy makers can play their part by reforming the current business rates system, which places a disproportionate burden on retailers, who pay 25% of the total rates bill despite making up a much smaller proportion of the economy.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, added: “There has rarely been a better time to be a shopper in Scotland in terms of the choice, convenience and price of goods on shop shelves.

“However for many retailers these are profoundly challenging and volatile times, as evidenced by several casualties on our high streets of late. Scotland’s retailers are having to contend with significant changes in shopping habits, squeezed consumers and spiralling government-imposed costs.

“Responding positively to all of this requires substantial outlays on digital infrastructure, a higher skilled workforce and revamped logistics capability, hugely challenging at a time when retailers are forking out more for things like the apprenticeship levy and the large firms’ business rates surcharge.

More shops are closing (photo by Terry Murden)

“These figures ought to serve as a wake-up call to policy makers, beginning with a far greater focus being brought to bear on reducing the costs of doing business.”

Ms Dickinson said there were some positive trends in the industry.

“Retailers are investing in technology and innovation which are transforming the retail experience for customers, and the industry has a vision for better retail jobs in the future that will improve productivity and provide quality employment opportunities for people across the UK,” she said.

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