// Waterstones CEO James Daunt warns on store closures without further business rates relief
// He said that no store closures are planned but he may have no choice if the rates relief is not extended beyond April
// Waterstones has also been in discussion with its landlords over rent holidays since the start of the pandemic
Waterstones chief executive James Daunt has issued a warning that the retailer could shut down some stores for good if the government’s business rates holiday was not extended.
Daunt told Retail Week that while there were no plans for immediate store closures, he said if the business rates payments were to be reimposed in full once the one-year holiday comes to an end in April, then he may be left with no choice.
He also warned that reimposing full business rates around the same time other Covid-related support measures – like the furlough scheme – are due to stop, could leave many retailers struggling.
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As a result, Daunt urged the government to extend the business rates holiday period beyond April – or completely reform the rates system before then.
Waterstones, which operates 283 stores in the UK and Europe, has been in discussion with its landlords over rent holidays since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Daunt told Retail Week that Waterstones has “a chunk of relatively small stores in some really retail-deprived areas” which don’t make much money, but keeps them there because he believes in the importance of bookshops.
“The government thinks I’m going to continue running some of these stores, simply in order to pay some absurd level of rates, which bears no relationship to the rent I’m paying,” he said.
“The landlords are sensible and have brought down the rent but the government hasn’t. They need to address that.”