By Marcus Leach
With the Chancellor about to deliver his Autumn Statement, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is today (Monday) publishing comprehensive new evidence on retailing's importance to kick-starting growth and job creation.
This research, UK Retailing: Leading Globally, Serving Locally brings together data on all facets of retailing for the first time. It makes the case for urgent action from the Chancellor - not just statements of intent - to implement a credible plan for economic growth in which retail can power the recovery.
The report, produced for the BRC by Oxford Economics and the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, shows that the sector - a great British success story - makes major contributions to:
- the economy (£292bn. of retail sales in 2010, 20% of GDP, £180bn of goods purchased for resale and £47bn. of goods and services used by retailers themselves)
- employment (10.5% of all jobs, 40% of under 20s employment, 12% of total UK investment in training)
- delivering value for customers (goods 5% cheaper overall than the eurozone, 20% cheaper for clothes, households now spend 10% of income on food compared with a third in the 1950s)
Retailers already make a substantial contribution to the Exchequer (£18bn. from the four largest taxes alone). They use fewer Corporation Tax exemptions than other sectors and pay 28 per cent of all Business Rates.
But, as it attempts to deliver growth, the Government cannot take any of this for granted. The BRC's latest retail market monitoring shows overall retail sales flatlining, the biggest footfall drop since last December's blizzards, total retail employment down 23,000 on a year ago and retailers offering fewer temporary jobs this Christmas.
Retail is not invulnerable. There must be no repeat of damaging hits such as last year's surprise £1bn Carbon Reduction Commitment tax grab. Instead the Chancellor should:
- keep Government generated costs under control e.g. Business Rates and the National Minimum Wage
- support customers and businesses by abandoning planned 2012 fuel duty increases
- revitalise the Red Tape Challenge which so far has failed to deliver any significant de-regulation
- help open up export markets such as EU e-commerce opportunities
"UK retailing is a great sector making a great contribution to the economy and wider society. Our report focuses on what needs to happen to make sure it stays that way," Toon Clerckx, Boots Finance Director and BRC Board member chairing the UK Retailing project, said.
"In particular, our role in tackling youth unemployment and delivering training and education is critical to the country. A third of all retail employees are under 25 and we invest in them - spending more per head on training than either the finance sector or manufacturing. I want people to see these facts and say, ‘I can see how much retailers matter. They're getting kids off the streets and into jobs with a future'.
"We want to go on being the number one employer of young people but the Government's choices will make or break our ability to do that. Where it decides to go next with Business Rates, fuel duty and the National Minimum Wage will have a direct impact on investment, stores and people."
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said the government must deliver now, or never.
Eighteen months in, with the economy stalling, the need for the Government to deliver real growth - not just more promises - is all the more urgent," he said.
"Our unique new evidence shows the scale of the retail sector's actual and potential contribution as a wealth creator, tax payer, jobs provider and innovator. But with sales flatlining and many of our costs increasing, that contribution cannot be taken for granted.
"We're not a sector that asks for handouts but the Chancellor must take urgent action to support, not undermine, the retail growth that can drive the recovery.
"He must control the costs he is responsible for - in particular next year's threatened fuel duty and business rates rises - and make it easier and more affordable for retailers to resume job creation."
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