British retailers are optimistic about the coming year but most still want to see fundamental reform of the business rates system.
A snapshot survey carried out by the British Retail Consortium asked retailers what changes the government could bring forward to make the UK a better place to do business; 74% of the retailers polled called for fundamental reform of business rates.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said this finding was “no surprise” and she described business rates as “an outdated and punitive tax”.
She said: “We’re delighted that the government has decided to back British retailing by committing to review the business rates system and we look forward to working with government during the course of the review. As the figures from our survey show, the retail industry will be doing its part to drive growth in 2015 – by investing and creating jobs – but these efforts will be hampered if serious solutions to the burden of business rates are not found.”
The survey found that most retailers are optimistic about 2015, with 76% of respondents saying that they expected their sales to improve this year compared with 2014.
In addition, 67% of retailers said that their investment levels were set to increase and 78% said they were likely to be employing more staff. However, ongoing concerns include weak consumer demand, cited by 68%.
Helen Dickinson said: “After a number of years battling against strong economic headwinds and shaky consumer confidence, it seems as though retailers are set for some cheer in 2015. However, given the tentative nature of the recovery in consumer confidence it’s natural that retailers are cautious about the longevity of the upswing we’ve seen recently.”
Also this week, Royal Mail’s annual tracker study has found that 70% of the UK’s SME online retailers expect to grow this year and 63% are planning to increase the number of channels they trade through, including marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
The study shows that the online retail market continues to grow in the UK – 58% of online retailers reported an increase in sales in 2014, up from 49% who reported growth in 2013.