The demise of the ‘High Street’, as we Brits affectionately call it, is nothing new.
For the best part of a couple of decades or so, we seem to have been lamenting the loss of the so-called High Street on an annual basis, as businesses report losses and firms go into liquidation at an alarming rate.
Woolworths ten years ago, Thomas Cook in 2019, redundancies and empty shop windows are commonplace across the country.
But what are the main obstacles to certain towns recovering?
One of these obstacles has to be Business Rates.
Let’s look at Blackpool as an example...
There currently sits empty and unloved, a once prime spot for retailers. Previously leased to the Arcadia Group for Topshop and Topman, the premises at 18 – 22 Victoria Street is now failing to attract any interest at all.
And that’s due to business rates.
For those who don’t know, business rates usually work out as approximately half of the cost of the rent.
That’s a big undertaking for any new tenant, especially when they consider that even a national company couldn’t make a go of it.
Business rates are altered every now and then by the government, as they revalue and reassess, meaning the rates can go up and down like the Big Dipper, but the system known as ‘transitional relief’ acts a shock absorber, stopping businesses from seeing the rise or fall in rates overnight.
For businesses expecting a rise, this is beneficial, as it gives them time to adjust. For businesses expecting a fall however, they sometimes don’t ever get to see the full benefit, as by the time it’s been phased in, rates might’ve gone up again.
It’s a bit of a rollercoaster..
This white-knuckle ride for business owners can often prove to be too much of a risk, and that’s where we see national companies pulling out and leaving the High Streets of our country to stagnate.
What’s needed is greater frequency and consistency with the adjustments. This would ensure that business rates are accurate and that the millions of pounds that are currently overspent, are kept in business, which would keep more people in work, ultimately keeping hands in pockets and hopefully keeping shoppers on the streets. Hopefully.
Scrapping transitional relief would make a big difference as well according to big business owners, as this costs some businesses millions every year. Millions they say, that could be spent on products, employment and expansion.
Can the High Street be saved?
What about Blackpool?
Changes to business rates legislation such as the implementation of three-year revaluations instead of the current five, planned for April 2021, could at least help them keep the lights on.
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