By Marcus Leach

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson believes Tuesday's Autumn Statement will benefit the retail sector, albeit marginally.

"Downgraded forecasts make it all the more vital that the Chancellor implements a credible plan for stimulating economic growth which helps retail in keeping inflation down and generating jobs, especially for young people," he said.

"The Chancellor has addressed a number of the concerns we raised with him. His measures should provide some help to the hardest-hit families and may go some way to reversing the trend of falling consumer spending, but the challenge for the next twelve months will be to rebuild consumer confidence and stimulate private sector investment.

"A number of these proposals have the potential to help households and businesses but may not go far enough, particularly if the eurozone crisis deepens."

Fuel Duty

"Imposing no rise in January is welcome help for hard-pressed customers and businesses already suffering big increases in many of their costs. This should help confidence. But the Chancellor must continue to be flexible. If oil prices remain high he should stand ready to drop entirely the increase he is postponing until August."

Business Rates

"Despite the option to postpone part of next year's rise, businesses are still faced with the prospect of big increases in rates costs. The option to postpone 60 per cent of April's increase will be a modest help but the bills will still have to be paid in the end. Offering a delay stops well short of implementing a significantly lower increase.

"The Chancellor should have taken the opportunity to switch to a lower CPI-based rise, as he has done for pensions and benefits, and the deferral scheme needs to be simple and workable unlike the last time this was tried."

Small Business Rate Relief

"This extra rate relief is clearly good news for some small retailers but a qualifying rateable value below £12,000 is a comparatively rare thing in South East England."

Youth Unemployment

"Retail is at the heart of providing jobs for young people.There are now over a million 16 - 24 year olds without jobs. But there are another million from that same age group who are working - in retail. Youth unemployment would be worse without retailers giving young people the breaks they need.

"More than four in ten new employees taken on by the sector in the last twelve months were aged between 16 and 21. Support is welcome but it would be better to reduce Government-imposed burdens generally rather than introduce a bureaucratic job subsidies scheme."

Deregulation and red tape reduction

"The Government's continued pledges on reducing business burdens are welcome but we need action that makes a meaningful difference to businesses, not just promises and consultations.

"The Government has said much but achieved little that makes a real difference in retail. Eighteen months in, the Government should be able to show it really is pulling down the regulatory barriers that are holding back growth."

Credit easing for small businesses — National Loan Guarantee Scheme

"Where a lack of access to available and affordable lending is small businesses' barrier to investment, this will help. But they also need the prospect of a return that makes that investment worthwhile. This requires the Government to improve the prospects for consumer spending."

Infrastructure and planning

"The Government is absolutely right to understand that it must target spending to infrastructure that genuinely increases business efficiency and delivers benefits in proportion to the costs.

"Increasing access to fast broadband will help drive the online retail revolution, encouraging competition by giving customers access to more choice and businesses access to larger markets.

"Investing in roads and ageing power infrastructure will be important in improving future buisiness efficiency. We look forward to similar investment in the devolved administrations.

"A more streamlined planning processes, which assumes development is desirable, will support business investment."

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