It’s crunch time for high street retailers as George Osborne decides on the future direction of business rates.
That’s according to Alan Hawkins, CEO of the British Independent Retail Association (bira), who warns that small shops could be headed for trouble if the Chancellor fails announce the renewal of business rate discounts in his Autumn Statement.
Small businesses with a rateable value of £6,000 are entitled to 100% relief from business rates until 31 March 2016.
A business rate discount of £1,500 is currently available for larger retail or leisure businesses.
If this rate relief is not renewed for 2016-17 then a small high street shop with a rateable value of £6,000 could see its rates bill rise from zero to nearly £3,000, bira warns.
Meanwhile, all shops with a rateable value up to £50,000 could find themselves facing an extra cost of £1,500.
“This is crunch time,” said Hawkins. “The Chancellor holds the fate of the high street in his hands. He promised fundamental rates reform and has made it clear that he recognises the special problems faced by retailers. On Wednesday we will find out if he is really going to help save the High Street – or instead just ratchet up the pain.”
Osborne will deliver his Autumn statement on Wednesday, November 25.
This comes at a time when research from bira and the Local Data Company shows that the number of small shops has fallen in the past year, after four years of growth that has helped bring down the shop vacancy rate.
That vacancy rate, though, still remains at more than double the rate pre-crash, according to bira.