The Retail Sector - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

7  Conclusion

This is an exciting—and volatile—time for retail. [BIS Retail Strategy][181]

119. The most recent BIS Retail Strategy states that:

    This is an exciting—and volatile—time for retail. There is a difficult economic climate, there are fundamental shifts in the retailer/customer relationship, there are great opportunities but also dangers for retailers of all sized and types, in all locations.[182]

120. Without doubt, the retail sector is continually evolving. Much of the evidence submitted to this inquiry was testament to innovative, fast-moving aspects of the retail sector. However, the fast moving pace of the retail sector means that the traditional home of retail—the High Street and the town centre—are under threat. We do not advocate going back to a bygone age of the retail sector. Indeed, the emergence of PopUp shops illustrates the fact that you do not have to be a big player to function effectively in the retail sector area. Also, the area of skills needs to evolve and be fit for purpose for the new multichannel transactions. However, the rapid evolution of the sector has a knock-on effect on the built environment. The physical location, where shops are or have been located, is important because that space means more than just retail. That space is a community hub, which equates to more than whether shops are present or not. Flourishing shops are better than boarded-up shops, in economic terms, and in relation to the social cohesion and fabric of our communities.

121. The Business Rate system is a significant barrier to innovation. Therefore, to allow retail to continue to operate in the High Street and, most importantly, to allow Start Ups to reinvigorate the sector and our Town Centres, Business Rates must be addressed. Clear, decisive action needs to be taken. If there is one thing that this Report urges the Government to do, it is to reform Business Rates. For retail, and other enterprises, to continue on the High Street, the Business Rates system must be addressed urgently.

122. The Government's retail strategies are full of good intentions, yet they do not seriously address what, to our minds, is the most crucial deterrent to new businesses appearing on the High Street and the most debilitating levy on existing businesses: Business Rates. Fewer Government strategies are needed. Instead, there should be simple, decisive action. Without a wholesale review, resulting in a new way of calculating Business Rates, the High Street—and with it community hubs attached to those centres—will fester. As the Government Strategy states, "This is an exciting—and volatile—time for retail", and the volatility should be kept to a minimum by reviewing Business Rates so that businesses on the High Street can have a fighting chance of surviving and flourishing.

181   BIS, A Strategy for Future Retail, p 2 Back

182   BIS, A Strategy for Future Retail, p 2 Back

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Prepared 4 March 2014