Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) has urged the government to create a “level playing field” between high streets and online retail.
To support shops, and the communities they serve, the union has suggested the government
should implement “fundamental business rates reform”.
The organisation revealed that from analysis published last year, based on nearly 3,000 shops, nearly 80% of constituencies with the highest rates burden (rates as a proportion of profitability) are in the North and Midlands.
In constituencies like Bishop Auckland in the North East, for example, shops can face a rates burden eight times that of similar stores in the South East. Put simply, rates are penalising shops in levelling up constituencies.
Paddy Lillis, general secretary commented that there were nearly 180,000 retail job losses and around 20,000 store closures last year. He stated that each one of those job losses is a “personal tragedy” for the individual worker.
Lillis said: “There are substantial issues that need to be addressed like rents, rates and taxation, to create a level playing field between high streets and online retail. That has been clearly demonstrated by the recent sale of Arcadia brands and Debenhams to online only retailers, resulting in major names disappearing from our high streets.
“There must be fundamental reform of business rates. Retailers need clear and decisive action from the government to make this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax fairer. An online sales levy set at 1% would raise around £1.5bn, which could fund a cut in retail business rates of around 20%.”
He added: “Retail is crucial to our town and city centres, it employs around three million people across the UK. The government must take this seriously; we need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet.”