Commenting initially, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC, said:
“The Government has missed a much-needed opportunity to help the retail industry. While we welcome measures to assist smaller retailers, the majority of the UK's 3.1 million retail workers are employed in businesses that will not benefit from today’s business rates announcement.
"If the Government is to truly back business, it must engage in more extensive business rates reform to help all retailers and their employees through this period of transformation.”
On business rates relief for small businesses:
“While we welcome the temporary support being given to small businesses, these measures alone are not sufficient to enable a successful reinvention of our high streets.
"Retailers are currently in the midst of a perfect storm of factors – technology changing how people shop, rising public policy costs and softening demand.
“Rather than tinkering around the edges, struggling high streets require wholesale reform of business rates in order to thrive. The issue remains that the business rates burden is simply too high.”
On the Future High Streets Fund and relaxation of planning laws:
"Retailers welcome the measures announced by the Treasury to invest new funding to boost high streets and town centres and facilitate re-invention to modern and diverse destinations. We await with interest further details of the plans, particularly around how the funding will be targeted, who will eligible and how quickly funds will be made available.”
On reform of the Apprenticeship Levy:
“While the Chancellor’s recent announcement to review the Apprenticeship Levy is positive, retailers need action now before levy funds expire. The Levy is not fit for purpose as retailers are unable to fully utilise funds. Businesses need the lifetime of funds to be extended while standards are finalised and more flexibility to use levy funds to cover the cost of backfilling roles while apprentices are off the job.
"The Budget is a missed opportunity to demonstrate that the government is prepared to work with industry to ensure apprenticeship levy reform is successful.”
On taxing plastic packaging:
“The UK retail industry is leading the way in protecting the environment by reducing single-use plastic and retailers will welcome the support to make this happen.
“Retailers recognise how important it is to their customers to tackle plastic pollution, removing it where possible and ensuring all packaging is recyclable. For this tax to make the difference that everyone wants to see, it is essential that the revenue raised is put back into recycling innovation rather than being locked away by the Treasury. Furthermore, Government must work with businesses to ensure the recycled plastic and recycling infrastructure is made available to support efforts to tackle plastic pollution. That is why retailers want to see reform of the recycling system. We need a producer responsibility system that incentives best practice - one that rewards retailers who use packaging that is easily recycled and penalises those that don’t change.”