A tax designed to support town centre business in Northern Ireland will actually hurt its high street shops, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned today.
The proposed legislation is misguided according to the BRC, and by its estimates retailers could face paying 40 per cent of the new levy.
Launching its Manifesto for Retail in Northern Ireland 2011, ahead of National Assembly election due to be held in the country, the BRC has implored politicians to further protect an industry which is so vital to the economy.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, said: “New Assembly members must realise retail is not a piggybank to be broken into when it needs some extra cash. The retail sector will deliver far more for Northern Ireland if it is supported and helped to grow, bringing in investment and creating jobs.
“This proposed tax on large retailers is contradictory. It’s supposed to provide support for town centres, but up to 40 per cent of it could be paid by the flagship stores that help make town centres such attractive shopping destinations.
“It’s supposed to bring in extra funds for the Executive, but risks destroying the bigger economic gains that would come from retail growth and job creation.”
The levy is intended to aid small businesses by imposing extra charges on larger retailers and out-of-town developments but the BRC warns that this risks forcing established retailers out of town centres and making the high street less attractive to consumers.
Retail sales in the UK fell by the largest monthly amount for 16 years in March, and the high street has been disproportionately affected by the downturn in trading.
Robertson added: “Support for our high streets is vital. Thriving town centres need successful retail outlets which in turn boost tourism and bring in business for other sectors.
“Retail is not a sector that looks for subsidies. It is naturally entrepreneurial. We’re not looking for hand-outs, we’re looking for hands off.”