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Mike Ashley: 'Tax the web boys 20%'

At a parliamentary committee hearing, Sports Direct Group owner Mike Ashley has called for a 20% internet sales tax to save the “flatlining mainstream high street”.

Ashley appeared before the housing, communities and local government committee on 3 December to discuss the outlook for high street retailers in 2030.

“I wouldn’t even go to 2030,” he said. ”The mainstream high street is already dead. What can we do for the minority? You have to immediately tax the internet.”

Ashley argued that a tax on those trading more than 20% of their sales online would force retailers to open more stores in areas where high streets are in decline.

“If I’m a retailer I will make sure not to pay the 20% tax and that I keep 80% of my revenues going through the high street because it now makes business sense for me to cross-subsidise those stores and keep them open.”

Discussing regional high streets, Ashley stressed the need for free parking to help increase footfall and encourage online shoppers to click and collect instore.

“You have to have free parking. You still get towns where high streets are barren and deserted charging for parking, which negates the free click-and-collect opportunities.”

Ashley called for councils to “force and help” retailers by working together with landlords: “Assuming the internet tax is in place, if the council then gave retailers free rates for five years on the condition that they matched every pound of free rates with a pound of investment that has to just go in that site, all of a sudden you’re forcing them to invest.”

Sports Direct Group has a £400m online business and would be affected by any online sales tax introduced.

Ashley said: ”I’m sitting here voting to punish Sports Direct Group. That is not very normal, but if the minority high street can now be saved it makes business sense because in 2030 I can have a fantastic business still.

”The high street won’t make 2030. It won’t be there unless you do something really radical.”

Readers' comments (13)

  • Business is not about protecting the high street, which used to be the only route to market. Now new routes to market have emerged, like retail parks and the web. Why should rich retail landlords be protected? The world is changing. Adapt or die. They have had years of warning as various retailers have collapsed, e.g. record shops, book shops and high street travel agents.

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  • Funny how quickly this guy starts saying things are unfair when he's no longer the biggest player in the room.

    He has no problem purposefully and strategically targeting established independents to try and put them out of business.

    Now he's realised he's a dot in comparison to Amazon and bigger players, suddenly it's all unfair and we all need to band together.

    Jeff Bezos personally made over 10 times more in 2017 ($40B) than Sport Direct group turned over in the same period (£3.2B).

    Mike Ashley is only happy when he's the biggest bully in the school yard and he goes crying to his mummy when things don't go his way.

    FU to MA.

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  • Ashley trying to put Indies out of business? How? If the typical punter would prefer to go to one of his outlets rather than the Indie, whose fault is that? It all depends on who is doing a better job.

    Businesses that go out of business, is almost exclusively their fault.

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