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Retailers call for ‘urgent government action’ to save a high street in strife

Retailers are calling for urgent government action to help high streets in their struggle for footfall and sales as new data reveals that the number of shops, pubs and restaurants closing is rising at the fastest rate in ten years.

According to the research, around 16 stores closed their doors every day in the first half of 2019, while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets.

The data has arrived courtesy of analysis by PricewaterhuseCoopers and the high street analysts, the Local Data Company.

The research focuses on chain stores and franchises, and does not include independent shops. The decline was faster than the net 1,123 closures during the same period last year, and is the highest recorded since LDC began monitoring the high streets in 2010.

The data has prompted a call on government to help the high streets amid the current strife by retailers and the shopworkers union Usdaw who has now launched the Save our Shops petition.

“The government must address the growing crisis on our high streets,” said Paddy Lillis, general secretary of Usdaw.

Usdaw, along with some of the UK’s biggest retailers including Tesco and Sainsbury’s have demanded a review of business rates and other taxes to level the playing field with online rivals. 

Last month, over 50 major retailers, including Marks and Spencer to Harrods, and John Lewis wrote to Sajid Javid to demand an urgent review of business rates.  

Dr Liliane Danila, an economist at the British Retail Consortium has accused the business rate system of ‘holding back investment, reducing productivity, and increasing regional disparities at retail.’

“High streets are undergoing a fundamental change in response to changing shopping habits, new technologies, and rising costs of doing business, so it is vital that government supports the industry to make the necessary investment to adapt,” she told The Guardian.

“The government must address the much-needed reforms to this broken tax system before more jobs are lost and stores are closed.”

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