The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for a two-year freeze on business rates increases to provide some relief for retailers.
The retail body said the current system was “unsustainable”, and was leading to store closures and hampering the modernisation and reinvention of the UK’s high streets.
It said the the retail industry is the UK’s largest private sector employer, making up 5% of the economy and paying nearly 25% of the overall business rates bill – a total of more than £7bn per year.
The BRC said there are nearly 2,500 fewer retail stores in the UK than there were three years ago, and since 2014 there have been more than 3,200 retail insolvencies in the UK and a series of high-profile company voluntary arrangements (CVAs).
Net industry profit has also fallen to around 2.5% from 4% over the previous five years.
Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said: “The current business rates system is not fit for purpose. It is a 20th-century answer to a 21st-century problem. Retail shoulders far more than its fair share, and the rates bill is leading to store closures and getting in the way of reinvention of our high streets.
”The BRC is calling on government to freeze business rates until the 2021 revaluation to relieve the burden of this unfair tax on retail businesses and allow time for dialogue about the wholesale modernisation of business taxation. This would be welcome government support for the country’s largest private sector employer at a critical time.”