Bira welcomes Autumn Statement measures but warns tough times still lie ahead for retailers

The British Independent Retailers Association has welcomed the support announced in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement. However, it warns that tough times still lie ahead for retailers with consumer confidence declining.

Plans released by Jeremy Hunt on Thursday 17 November include a National Living Wage increase of 9.7 per cent to £10.42 an hour. This will give a full-time worker a pay rise of over £1,600 a year, benefitting two million of the UK’s lowest paid workers.

The chancellor also announced a £13.6 billion package of support for business rates payers in England. To protect businesses from rising inflation, the multiplier will be frozen in 2023-24 while relief for 230,000 businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure sectors was also increased from 50 per cent to 75 per cent next year.

To help businesses adjust to the revaluation of their properties, which takes effect from April 2023, the chancellor announced a £1.6 billion Transitional Relief scheme to cap bill increases for those who will see higher bills. This limits bill increases for the smallest properties to 5 per cent. Businesses seeing lower bills as a result of the revaluation will benefit from that decrease in full straight away, as the chancellor abolished downwards transitional reliefs caps. Small businesses who lose eligibility for either Small Business or Rural Rate Relief as a result of the new property revaluations will see their bill increases capped at £50 a month through a new separate scheme worth over £500 million.

Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre comments: “The Autumn Statement delivered some welcome news for independent retailers with regards to business rates.

“Next year the multiplier will be frozen for 12 months, and the retail discount has been increased to 75 per cent (from 50 per cent) and downwards transitional relief has been removed. These are positive steps to support the high street.

“Bira has been campaigning hard to reduce the cost burden on indie retailers. We actually asked the government not to decrease the discount back in 2021, so it is great to see the chancellor listen to us this time around.”

However, Goodacre warns there will still be tough times ahead for retailers: “While this is good news for next year, we are acutely aware that the business climate at the moment is extremely difficult, with consumer spending declining. We would like to have seen more done to encourage more spending, especially in the run up to Christmas and we are very concerned that disposable income will be reduced as a result of this budget.”