The number of shoppers visiting Britain’s high streets have fallen sharply, prompting new calls from retailers for the Chancellor to commit to a reform of business rates in the Budget this week. Footfall at retail destinations fell by 2.9% in February compared to a year ago, with high streets down 5.3%, the worst figure for a year, according to new data from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard.
The sharp drop in footfall was caused by wet weather and consumers reining in spending after a sharp uptick in retail sales in January. Helen Dickinson, director-general of the BRC, said the figures “underline how important it is we keep our focus on reform of business rates to keep costs down”.
In the Autumn Statement last year, George Osborne offered retailers a £1.1b package of business rates relief and said the Government will explore whether to reform the tax. However, retailers are concerned that Mr Osborne intends to just tweak the existing business rates system and are pushing for a thorough overhaul of the tax. Ms Dickinson added: “Reform will help high street retailers invest in their offer and attract more people out to the shops, supporting local jobs and benefiting the wider economy.”
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