Chancellor must get public spending
The ongoing pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge for the retail industry. Now, three weeks after shops opened in England and Northern Ireland, footfall remains down by half compared with the previous year. According to the ONS, during April and May, non-food stores lost an average of £1.6bn in sales per week*. This drop in spending directly impacts over three million people employed in retail – with some jobs already being lost, and many more expected.
Ahead of the chancellor of the exchequer’s Summer Economic Update tomorrow, the British Retail Consortium is calling for swift action to help rebuild the retail industry and the wider economy. The BRC believes the following measures are a necessary part of boosting consumer spending and protecting thousands of retail businesses who face concrete challenges to their commercial viability:
- A temporary cut in the headline VAT rate and a reduction in income tax for lower income households to boost demand and raise consumer spending
- Action on commercial rents to protect viable retailers from huge rent bills that have built up while many were closed to the public.
The government should also look to support retailers and other businesses by:
- Reducing or eliminating parking charges in order to encourage footfall and boost spending in local shops
- Providing more flexibility in how employers can use Apprenticeship Levy funds in order to support the delivery of wider skills training and to tackle the likely rise in unemployment.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“The government has shown its resolve in trying to protect jobs and businesses during this pandemic – from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to rates relief and the various other financing support. But it is vital we do not fall at the last hurdle. The road to recovery relies on government finding ways to boost consumer spending throughout the economy. Without it, jobs and shops will be lost, further threatening the UK’s recovery.”