The chiefs of several major retailers have warned the Treasury that urgent action is needed to prevent a double-dip recession and the possible closure of thousands of shops.
A crisis meeting was held on Tuesday night with chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and several retailers including Sainsbury’s boss Justin King and John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield.
According to The Telegraph, retail chiefs told Alexander the sector is already absorbing £670m of extra Government-imposed costs and warned him not to increase their burden. They also said they need Government support in creating jobs to help the economy recover.
The meeting was organised by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and was described as “constructive”. Mothercare chief executive Ben Gordon also attended the meeting.
Rising petrol and food prices have led to a squeeze in disposable incomes, and sales have dropped off sharply in recent weeks.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “We’re not asking for handouts but we are saying it’s more important than ever that the Government understands the finely balanced position many retailers are in.”
He said anecdotal evidence showed sales slowed dramatically in February as shoppers reined in their spending.
“Retail chief executives are telling me that, apart from a bit of a boost from half term, February’s sales were pretty weak.”
At the weekend the BRC sent is Budget submission to Chancellor George Osborne in which it laid out a 20-point plan for a “retail-led recovery”.
A Treasury spokesman told the paper the meeting went well. “We are in the process of conducting a growth review and the retailers obviously had a lot of ideas,” he said.