‘Not a huge help’: retailers vote on budget

‘Not a huge help’: retailers vote on budget

The retail industry is the UK’s largest private sector employer, providing three million jobs across the country. After a year in which Covid lockdowns hammered main streets but boosted online sales, we asked industry-wide numbers to comment on Wednesday’s budget.

The store floor

Sarah Edmiston, Customer Service Advisor at London DIY Store The Tool Shop

Sarah Edmiston, who works at the Waterloo branch of The Tool Shop. Photographie : Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

“Personally, there wasn’t much for me to gain, but canceling the fuel tax increase will help me travel a lot. I drive most of the time to work, then take the train at the end. As for fuel, it’s probably costing me an extra £ 13 per week right now.

“The increase in the minimum wage [from the 1 April it rises from £8.91 to £9.50 for those 23 and over] will help my team members who are fairly new but have been working here for 18 years. It just feels like, again, if you have the money, you’re fine, but the average family is hit the hardest. We are not at minimum wage, but not at such a high wage that we are not feeling the increase in the costs of fuel, food and utilities. You don’t get anything at all, that’s worrying.


Andrew Prickett, warehouse worker for a large food distributor

Andrew Prickett, Warehouse Worker. Photograph: none

“I don’t think they’ve done enough to increase that salary. I would love to see it hit at least £ 10, ”he said, highlighting the impact of rising national insurance payments and rising fuel and utility bills on people’s finances. households. He says the new progressive universal credit relief is “just a few coppers” compared to the £ 20-a-week benefit cut this month.

The delivery driver

Ed Cross, a courier for the logistics company Hermes

Ed Cross, independent delivery driver for Hermes, based in Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK.
Ed Cross, independent delivery driver for Hermes, based in Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK. Photographie : Gary Calton/The Observer

“The price of fuel right now is crippling couriers. We only get 25p a mile [from Hermes] and couriers are also struggling to get fuel due to shortages [at petrol stations]. During the pandemic fuel prices fell and we were counterparts, but now it’s starting to hurt. “

He said the universal credit changes would also be welcome, but were unlikely to make up for the loss of the £ 20 a week boost introduced during the pandemic. “A lot of couriers are worried about that £ 20,” he said.

“I’m sad for Main Street as more and more people will be buying online without the online sales tax. But when people shop online, they need couriers. He suggested it could boost the industry during the pre-Christmas peak season.

The family business

William Coe, Managing Director Coe’s of Ipswich Family Retail

William Coe, de Coe's d'Ipswich.
William Coe, de Coe’s d’Ipswich. Photography: Paul Driver

“I don’t think the government has a plan to help Main Street. The biggest disappointment is that they didn’t get the point on corporate pricing. The Chancellor said it would be irresponsible to remove corporate rates, but they need to be reformed and this has been pushed back, creating uncertainty.

Coe, whose company has six stores in East Anglia and employs 140 people, said he understood the logic of a minimum wage increase but was concerned about the timing given inflation and the post-recovery recovery. pandemic. “People are going to have to raise their prices because their workforce is not suddenly going to become 6% more productive. The rates will improve us from where we were before the pandemic, but the [higher] salary costs mean that the budget is broadly neutral for us.

The mid-size retailer

Gary Grant, President by The Entertainer, the 172-store toy store chain

Gary Grant, owner of The Entertainer toy chain, in his Westfield Center store in Shepherd's Bush.
Gary Grant, owner of The Entertainer toy chain, in his Westfield Center store in Shepherd’s Bush. Photographie : Sarah Lee/The Guardian

“Overall I’m not sure there is huge retail support here. The 50% reduction on professional rates is capped at £ 110,000. Our rates are probably over £ 6million, so that’s actually just a 1.5% discount. With the rise of the Internet, retail sales have plummeted and corporate prices need to be revised. The government refusing to [do so] is very poor.

He suggested that not introducing an online sales tax gave web competitors a “huge rate advantage” and did not support physical stores that “bring something to the community” in local areas. “We have to make sure the shopping streets are busy. “

The large supermarket

Kevin O’Byrne, CFO of Sainsbury’s Group, also owner of Argos

Kevin O'Byrne, CFO of Sainsbury's.
Kevin O’Byrne, CFO of Sainsbury’s. Photographie : Piranha Photography/Piranha Photography/Sainsbury’s

“Business rates are an obsolete tax that is no longer suited to its purpose. We welcome the freeze on the business rate multiplier and support for SMEs as well as more regular rate valuations.

“Now we need the government to build on this and step up efforts to fundamentally reform corporate pricing and level the playing field between online and physical retail. Brick-and-mortar retailers are disproportionately overburdened and large retailers are among the biggest employers on UK shopping streets and in all communities. With rising inflation, the already slim margins are further stretched by this outdated tax, which restricts investment and growth. “

The owner

Mark Williams, Executive Director from RivingtonHark, an asset manager focused on city center regeneration

Mark Williams, de RivingtonHark.
Mark Williams, de RivingtonHark. Photograph: none

“The only positive thing I can say is that it is now cheaper for us to drown our sorrows by discussing business rates in the pub. The government says the new measures will help over 90% of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and I cannot dispute them on that because I do not have the makeup of that number.

“But the reality is that cities and the city center are occupied by multiple [chains]. The maximum profit they can get from this is £ 110,000, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the millions or in some cases billions of pounds they are paying. This system is not fair and the budget has not helped.

“Sadly, Amazon and other large online digital retailers benefit massively from paying virtually no tax compared to people like Primark, who have no online presence and pay an exorbitant amount of tax. “


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