The role of the retail industry and its impact on consumers and the wider economy should be brought to the forefront in the Welsh Government’s budget this autumn, according to the Welsh Retail Consortium.
Highlighting the profound changes facing the retail industry, the WRC proposes recommendations in key areas affecting consumers and retailers in its Shaping the Future of Welsh Retail document to the Finance Secretary.
Specifically, the WRC is recommending that Welsh Ministers:
- Ensure that retail is prioritised in the forthcoming Welsh Economic Strategy, and the industry is engaged in helping to support and deliver on the subsequent actions plans.
- Build on the current Small Business Rates Review by bringing forward an immediate review on reforming business rates for all over the decade ahead, to ensure rates better flex with economic conditions. Deliver a medium-term plan to substantially lower the rates burden.
- Maintain the commitment to not increase the rate of income tax during the course of this assembly (post 2019).
- Introduce a moratorium on new or additional rates levies during the remainder of the current parliamentary term
- Provide an annual review on the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy in Wales and consider taking forward a Flexible Skills Fund as has been proposed in the Scotland.
- Engage the retail industry at the earliest possible opportunity on any proposals that arise from the national debate on new tax powers.
The submission from the leading sectoral trade association comes ahead of the expected publication later this autumn of the Welsh Government’s budgetary plans for 2018-19.
The retail industry is Wales’s largest private sector employer, providing 137,000 jobs, and the WRC’s members include well known high street, out-of-town, online and grocery retailers. However Welsh retail is an industry in transition and official data shows a net decline of 780 shops and 3,000 fewer retail jobs over the past 6 years.
Sara Jones, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said:
“Recent years have seen business rates rise, employment costs go up, and the cost of importing goods increase as the value of the pound has crashed. This perfect storm of economic and government induced cost increases will make it more and more difficult for retailers to keep down prices, it is only a matter of time until customers start to feel this pressure through higher prices.
"It is now time critical to act upon these pressures by creating an environment which will support such an important part of the Welsh economy. Recognition of the role that retail can play in future Government policy, an immediate review on our outdated and anachronistic business rates system and early engagement with the industry on new tax powers should all be at the forefront of the forthcoming Welsh budget.
"The WRC hopes the Finance Secretary will act on the recommendations sought by the retail industry, and in doing so will provide the assurances needed for both consumers and retailers alike that the Welsh Government is open for business and open to engaging with the retail industry as one the lynchpins of the Welsh economy.”
Download the WRC Budget Submission.