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Retailers optimistic for 2015 despite business rate worries

UK retailers have shown a resounding vote of confidence for trading in 2015 despite highlighting a series of concerns, according to a survey carried out by the British Retail Consortium. 

More than 75% of those asked said they expect sales to rise in 2015, with a further 67% believing their investment levels will increase and 78% likely to be employing more staff over the next 12 months.

Alongside the optimism, worries including weak consumer demand (68%), business rates (53%) and the economy (47%) were also voiced. Just under three-quarters of the respondents, which represent around 18% of the retail industry by sales value, put pressure on the government to bring forward reform for business rates. 

Commenting on the results, Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC, which will be working with the government during its review of the system, warned efforts to drive growth on the part of retailers will be hampered if “serious solutions” to the burden are not found.

“After a number of years battling against strong economic headwinds and shaky consumer confidence, it seems as though retailers are set for some cheer in 2015.

However, given the tentative nature of the recovery in consumer confidence it’s natural that retailers are cautious about the longevity of the upswing we’ve seen recently. It’s also no surprise that the fundamental reform of business rates has come out as top priority for government action. It is an outdated and punitive tax.”

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for a full structural review of business rates in his Autumn Statement on December 3.

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