Conservative manifesto fails to ‘take bull by the horns’ on retail, says BRC

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)has said the Conservative manifesto “fails to take the bull by the horns” when it comes to major issues affecting the retail industry.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said that after 14 years in government the party should be aware of the issues facing retailers.

“Unfortunately, this manifesto fails to take the bull by the horns, leaving many ongoing challenges, from business rates to apprenticeships, without clear solutions” she said. “On a brighter note, the Conservatives commitment to tackling retail crime remains firm in the manifesto, with a pledge to toughen sentences for those who assault retail workers.”

Dickinson added that the party had listened to concerns about crime and welcomed the measures introduced in April against those who assault retail workers.

Last month, Dickinson warned that the existing business rates system, alongside planning laws, are “holding back the industry”.

She criticised the Conservative party’s approach to business rates, commenting that that they are at a record high and will not improve according to the manifesto.

“Despite previous promises to reform the broken business rates system, we continue to see empty shops around the country that have fallen prey to sky high rates,” she said. “And while the full details of the proposals to offset high street business rates by raising rates for warehousing would need to be seen, it is hard to see it as a viable solution given the wide range of retailers that sell goods online as well as from stores.”

Responding to the Liberal Democrat manifesto, Dickinson welcomed the party’s “ambition to address some of the major issues in our economy.”

She said the party’s commitment to reform the “broken” business rates system could help to revive city centres.

Speaking at the Retail Technology Show in London last April, Dickinson said that policy making had become very short term and “politically-driven”.

Organisations like the BRC have "ended up in a fight" over details when trying to engage with the government, she said.

“What we want from the next government, whoever it may be, is a different relationship,” she said.

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