Next CEO calls for business rates reform

Next CEO

The chief executive of Next has joined the growing list if UK retail leaders criticising the business rates regime, after he went on TV and called for reforms in order to keep the high street alive.

Lord Simon Wolfson told ITV News that the commercial property tax needed to be updated to reflect major changes in retail triggered by online shopping.

“The one thing that I think the government must do is make rates more responsive to today’s reality,” said Wolfson, who is also a Tory peer.

“There are lots of our shops where we pay higher rates than we do rents.”

Wolfson insisted the system needed changes to bring it in line with a market where people increasingly shopped online.

“I would have more frequent revaluations, up and downwards revaluations, so the rates are a fair reflection of the value of that property,” he said.

He added: “One interesting fact is that of the goods [Next sells] online, 50 per cent of them are collected from a store and that’s what gives me absolute confidence that stores will be there in five or 10 years’ time.”

Other retail leaders who have previously criticised the business rates regime or called for reform include Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis, Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe,  The Entertainer chief executive Gary Grant, Argos chief executive John Rogers, and retail expert and TV personality Mary Portas.

The British Retail Consortium, New West End Company and Bank of England governor Mark Carney have also flagged the tax for damaging the retail industry.

While Chancellor Philip Hammond recently admitted that business rates were hitting the high street too hard, he stopped short of making any immediate changes to the system.

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