The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has highlighted the “period of unprecedented change” the UK retail sector is going through.
BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson OBE stressed that the government must create opportunities to “ensure it’s not Armageddon retail but reinvention retail”.
Dickinson revealed that there are 2,485 fewer retail stores in the UK than there were three years ago.
Just over 16% of all sales were made online last year – up from 12.5% just two years before. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been more than 3,200 retail insolvencies in the UK and a growing awareness of company voluntary arrangements.
“For customers, the squeeze on real earnings is unrelenting and a drag on spending is expected to continue as real wage growth remains weak,” said Dickinson.
“Politically, there is much the government can do to help relieve some of the pressure on the high street. The business rates system is not fit for purpose. It is a big cost burden – retailers contribute around 5% to the UK economy, yet pay 25% of business rates.
“This is simply not sustainable. It acts as a barrier to investment from new entrants to the industry and discourages the reinvention of our high streets at a time when retailers are struggling to adapt to shoppers’ changing habits.”
Dickinson believes there is “too much retail space” and in the future, there will be fewer shops and their role will be different, with “more engaging and based on creating experiences for customers”.
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