Lobby group the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is appealling to Chancellor George Osborne to protect retailers from any further costs in the forthcoming government budget, it was revealed today.
The organisation, which represent around 90 per cent of the retail trade by turnover, warns that the industry is currently bearing the brunt of £670 million in extra government imposed costs.
One issue the BRC has emphasised is that retail is a major employer of 16-25 year olds in the country and the recent increase in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) is disproportionately impacting on the sector.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the BRC, said: “Our absolute priority is to be at the centre of the recovery – to be able to go on maintaining and creating jobs.
“Sadly, a million young people are without work. Retail already employs one million young people, starting their careers, and we’d like to be able to take on more.”
NMW increased in October by 2.2 per cent and another increase could be imposed later this year.
The BRC has also warned about the current business rate and national insurance levels, and the fact that many retailers took the brunt of January’s VAT increase in order to keep people shopping.
Robertson added: “While it may be true that ‘the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden’, the retail sector, which operates on slim margins, is already seeing its load increase sharply. New impositions can only hinder retail’s ability to invest.
After the decline in national output for the last quarter of 2010 it is imperative that the government encourages growth in the private sector but recent poor results from many retailers, including until-recently high achieving John Lewis, show that this crucial sector is currently stalling.
A 20 point plan has been set out by the BRC to encourage a retail led recovery, with measures including simplifying employment law for new companies, lower commercial fuel costs and minimising paper work for apprenticeships.
“The Prime Minister’s Jobs Summit showed just how reliant on retailing this year’s economic growth will be,” Robertson added.
“We’re not asking for handouts but we do need an environment that eases costs, supports job creation and boosts consumer confidence.”