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British Retail Consortium calls for rates reform as recent sales growth remains ‘fragile’

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The British Retail Consortium (BRC) called for the UK to reform the rates system to support retailers with their financial burden to avoid store closures and job losses.

In the four weeks to 1 May, UK retail sales grew 7.3% compared to two years ago, when trading wasn’t hit by the pandemic. It’s above the three-month average growth of 6%.

READ: UK recommended to move to COVID-19 alert level 3 from 4 ahead of next step out of lockdown

However, chief executive Helen Dickinson said this growth is “fragile” because there is little competition for share of spending while parts of hospitality, leisure, and tourism remain restricted, while inner cities and town centres continue to perform poorly as many people continue to work from home.

With the short-term pent-up demand for the shopping experience drawing consumers back to stores, non-food sales across stores and online increased by a quarter between March and April.

Many fashion retailers saw an uptick in sales, particularly in outerwear and knitwear, as people could only meet outdoors. Furniture also saw a boost as consumers can now try before they buy.

“While the boost in sales is positive as the industry continues to invest in safety and the online offer, high streets still have a long way to go on the path to recovery,” Dickinson said.

“There are 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough. This and the end of the full business rates relief in England in June jeopardises the future of many stores and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.”

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