Unfair rates and tax system can't go on, say Preston business chiefs

Fishergate, Preston
Fishergate, Preston
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The number of empty shops in town centres has reached its highest level since 2015, figures have shown.

The national vacancy rate was 10.3 per cent in July, the highest since January 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor.

Today the figures prompted renewed calls in Lancashire for Government action to protect our high streets.

Mark Whittle, manager of the Preston City Centre Business Improvement District, said: “Retail is a challenging environment given the way in which consumers now like to shop, and whilst stores continue to evolve their offer, they aren’t being given the opportunity to operate on a level playing field.

“The British Retail Consortium echoes this in stating that retail businesses account for five per cent of the economy, yet pay 10 per cent of all business costs and 25 per cent of all business taxes; it’s not a fair model.

“We continue to call on the government to introduce a fairer business rates system and general taxation models for all businesses, particularly those on the high street.”

Footfall also fell by 1.9 per cent last month, marking the worst decline for July since 2012.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said retailers had faced a “challenging environment”.

“High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts,” she said.

The figures showed that high street footfall declined by 2.7 per cent last month, while footfall at shopping centres fell by 3.1 per cent.

Retail parks fared better, with a 1.2 per cent increase in footfall.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, urged the Government to take action to relieve the pressure on the high street.

Last month was also the worst July on record for year-on-year growth in retail sales.

Ms Wehrle added: “The stronger performance of out-of-town destinations reflects the fact that retail parks are successfully bridging the convenience-experience gap.”