Next chief executive Lord Wolfson has called on the government to reform business rates in a bid to slow store closures on the UK high street.
“The one thing I think the government must do is make business rates more responsive to today’s reality,” Wolfson told ITV News. “In thriving towns and city centres we should be paying high rates, but the ones that are dying, that process is being accelerated by rates that are stuck at levels that don’t reflect today’s reality.”
He refused to blame tech giant Amazon for the troubles currently facing the high street, adding that although more shoppers are turning online, there will still be a place for bricks-and-mortar stores.
“Everyone is looking for a villain and the reality is that Amazon does a great job for its customers,” he said. “If we are going to compete with them then we need to do a great job for our customers. I think the reason people are shopping less on the high street is that they have found other ways to get product that they find convenient. This is being driven by consumer – Amazon is not making people order things. Of the orders we take online, 50% of them require it to be delivered to a store and that’s what gives me absolute confidence that stores will be there in five or ten years’ time. They may be a very different shape or size but I am pretty sure they will still be there.”