The government’s much heralded “Mary Portas initiative”, set up to find a way to revive the High Street has provided no benefit to the 12 towns that were given £100,000 each to assist in bringing shoppers back to the town centres.
A BBC Radio 4 survey conducted by the daily “You and Yours” programme, revealed that the number of empty shops in the 12 towns awarded the funding had risen and no immediate benefit was realised. In defence of Mary Portas some of her ideas such as lower rates for small retailers just did not materialise. Some major retailers also spoke out at the time claiming her ideas to be little short of a publicity stunt. -See “Queen of Shops’ Portas bid to save High Street attacked as foolish stunt by retail chief who warns that 20,000 independent shops are in danger of closing”
Even more embarrassing is the fact that the Government has failed to undertake any research into the impact on the 12 towns….do you think they know it has not worked?
Well we have come up with a few ideas ourselves to put some life in the High Street and to raise footfall for independent shops. Creating a “Level Playing Field” is an important part in saving our high street – strangely this was in the Portas review, but really came nowhere near addressing the major issues. The main issues for independent shops include:
1. Amazon – their impact on the high street has been dramatic, but this is not surprising as they play by a different set of rules – make them pay tax on profits and sales like all other retailers. The fact they pay no VAT and corporation tax means that they can sell the same goods at up to 25% less than other “honest” retailers. It’s time to rectify this anomaly.
2. EBay and car boot sellers – The government needs to put as much effort into ensuring that all sellers abide by the HMRC rules – take a walk around a car boot sale and see the products for sale. Many may be selling off the contents of their garage but a huge number both online and at such events are running a business , again without paying the appropriate tax on profits and taking income from shop owners paying rates, tax and VAT!
3. Charity Shops – no one wishes to stop charities raising monies for good causes but when they receive beneficial rebates, don’t pay staff and now account for a good percentage of retail outlets in a high street – there is a real problem. Can you imagine what would be said if an independent shop put a notice in their window – volunteers required!
4. Online retailers – we all love shopping online but there has to be a level playing field. The UK public needs to make a decision on what they want – Do they want a high street or small out of town high street in the suburbs that is vibrant offering a real difference or are they happy to see our shopping street taken over by Bookies, Charity shops, coffee shops and burger stalls . The government in the past has levied a tax on certain sectors (financial services sector -IPT tax) and a tax on online stores (5% would seem reasonable) could revitalise the independent shopping sector. Is anyone making money online, Tescos have just confirmed that their online delivery service costs nearly 4 times the amount they charge and with other online retailers facing soaring delivery costs the bubble may soon be set to burst on online retailers
5. Supermarkets -Stop their domination of the local high street. Tesco Express and others have been allowed to dominate the local high street shutting down shops all around it, from bakers, grocers, newsagents, toy shops, off licences and on and on. Whilst the argument is they bring jobs to the local area, the reality is that other shops close so the net effect is a decrease in the number of shops. Some English councils have now approached the government to allow them to propose a Tesco’s tax to ensure the local economy benefits! To read more click here
6. Restrict the number of outlets in small suburb high streets that can be filled by “Turf accountants”, “charity shops” and “food outlets”. The councils will dislike it as will take anyone’s money in business rates but in the long term it will encourage unique quality stores to open.
Of course it may be that the UK public wish to allow all of the above and do not care about their local independent stores but I and many others have long given up on going shopping in the City Centre as there is nothing of interest to look at – one city centre looks exactly the same as another so why bother. If you feel strongly on any of the above please let us know or please send us your own suggestions and we will add them to the list!
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