Retail lobby calls on coalition to scrap duty rise and freeze rates

Ben Southwood
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THE COALITION must rein in the costs it imposes on consumers and businesses, a retail lobby group said today, after years of weak growth in the sector.

The delayed fuel duty increase must be scrapped, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) demanded, and business rates must be frozen in 2013 – after rising substantially in the previous two years.

These measures will go some way to restoring consumer confidence, the group claimed, after a massive squeeze from the prolonged recession.

This comes after two years of sluggish growth in the retail sector – values climbed on average 2.1 per cent per year over the period – comparing unfavourably to the 4.5 per cent average annual expansion enjoyed between 2006 and the end of 2007.

“Four years on from [the collapse of Lehman Brothers], which sent retail sales plummeting, sales [value] growth is still less than half what it was before,” said BRC boss Stephen Robertson, “Sales volumes are now going backwards.”

“Representing over five per cent of GDP and more than 10 per cent of jobs, retail is a vital part of the UK economy and a key indicator of its health,” Robertson claimed.

“It’s still the biggest private sector employer in the country but this analysis vividly demonstrates the lasting blow dealt to households and to retail sales by the crisis of 2008,” he added.