In supporting the aims of Independents’ Week (29 May – 4 June 2011), British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said, “Small and independent retailers are crucial to communities and the success of UK retailing overall but the difficulties many are facing must be recognised and addressed.”
The week, aimed at helping independent retailers promote themselves, comes a fortnight after
the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced a review of the high street to be headed by reality television presenter Mary Portas.
The concerns which it must tackle and the BRC’s recommendations are highlighted in the BRC’s vision for the future 21st Century High Streets. They include:
Costs of doing business – including business rates, rents and wages
- Make future Business Rates increases more predictable and affordable by basing them on the Consumer Price Index (as used for pensions) or an annual-average of the Retail Price Index. There should be no return to local setting of Business Rates.
- All commercial landlords should copy the best by offering flexibility on rents and rental terms to reflect changing circumstances.
- There should be a more predictable relationship between National Minimum Wage (NMW) and average earnings movements - while ensuring NMW does not increase faster than average earnings.
Ease and costs of access – both for customers and deliveries
- Parking and transport policy should be directed at providing a service to customers and retailers, not exploited as a local authority fund raiser.
- Investment – some town centres have suffered, often for many years, from a failure to invest in making them safe and attractive places that customers want to go to.
The BRC says the future of town centres cannot be left to chance. There should be a careful programme of economic health monitoring, especially for town centres approaching ‘tipping points’. They have to be actively managed and invested in by local authorities with their retailers and other businesses.
Real priority must be given to deterring all forms of retail crime and anti-social behaviour. To prevent a downward spiral, damaged property must be restored quickly.
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson also said, “Independents make a vital contribution to local communities and economies – providing jobs and essential services. They’re a crucial part of our national retail mix but in some cases they, and the high-streets they tend to occupy, are in trouble.
“Rightly recognising their future cannot be left to chance, the Government has commissioned a review. It should not be about gimmickry but the key issues we’ve already highlighted. Costs, access, investment and crime.
“Independents are essential to an attractive retail mix but so are the big names. The evidence is clear. Major retailers make it less likely local residents will leave the area to shop elsewhere. They support town centres by acting as magnets for customers and smaller shops.
“What’s needed is positive action from local and Central Government that supports retailers of all types and sizes.”
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