Gifts Today magazine

Government relief will not secure the future of the high street, says top accountancy firm

The Chancellor announced in this year’s Autumn Statement a relief on business rates, but according to a statement released by top UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy LLP, reduced rates will not cure the high street.

According to the Office for National Statistics, small scale shops are actually leading growth on the high street, experiencing an 8.1 per cent rise in sales since 2013, compared to a 2.6 per cent rise from larger retail businesses, leaving a large gap in the overall customer share.

Phil Mullis, a partner at Wilkins Kennedy LLP says: ‘Tailored customer service, local knowledge and specialist goods are all USPs for the independent retailer, giving them the growth they deserve during the recession. The Chancellor’s further rate relief announced today will only go further to help keep the wolf from the door.

‘However, we mustn’t lose sight of the bigger retail stores who are large employers. The recession taught us that no one was safe, independent or national chain and the Government must do their bit at the other end of the scale to help the bigger players out too.

‘Also, we can’t ignore the fact that trade is increasingly moving online. So, whilst these rate reliefs are handy in the short term the growth won’t be sustainable if the footfall chooses the online shop over the bricks-and-mortar store.

‘In order to secure the future of the high street, the Government needs to be much more proactive and sensitive to the way the world is changing. Today’s shoppers are much more fluid, and can combine popular shopping channels; so, independent retailers need to build a better support network to reflect this modern shopping experience. This should not only lead to a high street recovery, but it will also help to stabilise retail sales overall.’

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