Business rates system “does not reflect retail market” says ex-John Lewis boss

high street health
// The Key Cities Group released a damning report of the current business rates system calling for a “complete review”
// The group consists of major retail figures including Bill Grimsey and Andy Street
// They argue that the current system no longer represents the modern British commercial landscape

Major retail figures including former John Lewis boss Andy Street and Bill Grimsey have piled fresh pressure on the government to reform business rates.

The Key Cities Group, comprised of 24 UK cities each with a gross added value (GVA) of over £110 billion, unveiled the findings of its The Future of our Town and City Centres report at a conference on the future of the UK’s high streets yesterday in London.

In a year that is due to see a record number of high street stores and jobs come under threat, the report has called for a “complete review” of the current business rates system, stating that it no longer represents the modern British commercial landscape.

Addressing the Key Cities Group conference, Street – who is now the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands – said that the current system “does not reflect the retail market and indeed how other companies make profit”.

“There does need to be a much more complete review of how profit is achieved in the business sector,” he added.

“Business rates fall disproportionately on the high street. Ever since I was managing director of John Lewis, we have been lobbying for some further changes to business rates than have currently occurred.”

Speaking alongside him, Grimsey – who authored a review into the future of the UK high street last year – highlighted the need to address the rise of online giants like Amazon, proposing a sales tax.

He also warned that struggling retailers like Debenhams would disappear, and that grocery stores would need half the space they currently occupy by 2030, arguing that customers would not shop in stores where they would not need to touch items to buy them.

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