Waterstones CEO warns of store closures if business rates holiday not extended

Waterstones CEO James Daunt warns of store closures if business rates holiday not extended
Waterstones operates 283 stores in the UK and Europe.
// 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.


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.”

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  1. When the owners odf. Waterstones can afford to pay their London office staff millions, why should tax payer subsidy a failing company

  2. Rates are set by the VOA. City centre rates are higher than out of town rates. Yet many “city centres” no longer have the footfall of customers to banking, retail and cafes. The city centres have no special attraction and are just the same as the other shopping centres out of town. Yet the VOA just wants the money. They need central government to react and instruct the VOA to reassess quickly. The internet has boomed with home delivery and click and collect. Times are changing and so must government to prevent empty shops nationwide.

  3. In reply to John Smith.
    Propping up a retailer that supplies books and a browsing experience to many parts of the country where there are no other bookshops is actually essential to culture.
    Your mindset is appalling in a devastating lockdown.

  4. Why should we prop up this business when after making London office staff redundant, it then gives its remaining staff millions in bonuses. This company is owned by Elliotts , a renowned asset stripper. He is closing stores anyway, so why give him more tax payers money. He is raking in taxpayers money. The proof will be in the pudding after lockdown is over. We will have given him millions of our money and shops will still close. Read up about Elliott.


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