2012 wasn’t an easy ride for retail, writes Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium.
Household incomes continued to be under pressure and there was a real lack of confidence about jobs and the wider economy. The result was reluctance to commit to spending, especially on anything that wasn’t an immediate need. Add in increases in business costs, and you had some retailers in a precarious position and more than one in nine shops on the high street standing empty.
Retail has a vital role to play in supporting investment, job creation and the UK’s economic recovery, and, to maximise that potential, against that difficult background, there are measures that the Government should take in 2013.
For example, while we were pleased that George Osborne announced plans to scrap the fuel duty rise in his Autumn Statement, we were disappointed that he didn’t pledge to freeze business rates in 2013. Rates have risen by over ten per cent in the last two years, and they’re set to rise by a further 2.6 per cent in 2013, adding £175 million to retailers’ costs. My message to the Chancellor is, retailers have more than made their contribution in recent years. It’s not too late to cancel that increase.