Retail bosses call Spring Budget ‘utter disappointment’

Several major UK retailers have openly criticised the chancellor's recent Spring Budget, calling its failure to reduce business rates a "disappointment".

Currys chief executive Alex Baldock said that it was no wonder stores are increasingly having to close their doors.

"Sky high business rates, coupled with big increases to wages and misjudged proposals like those on recycling, heap ever higher costs on those of us with physical stores," added the chief exec. "The result will be higher inflation, lower growth, and fewer jobs."

Iceland's executive chair Richard Walker said that the chancellor should be focused on getting the economy back on track, rather than "fiddling with National Insurance to give Tory MPs a delusory saccharine rush".

"The overall tax take remains at a record high, debt is going up not down, yet the public sector is completely broken," he continued. "Local services are on their knees."

The owner of Westfield shopping centres also described the Budget as an "utter disappointment" for the retail and property sectors.

“These are clear missed opportunities especially in this all-important election year,” said Scott Parsons, chief operating officer at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. “It's deeply frustrating that calls from over 500 sector leaders to halt the tourist tax have been ignored, despite the compelling data which demonstrates the critical importance of tax-free shopping for the UK economy.”

The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents over 200 major retailers, warned that inaction on business rates in the Budget will cost the industry an extra £470 million every year.

“Retail employs three million people and invests over £17bn annually, yet the industry’s ambition to deliver a net zero, digitally transformed future with higher skilled, better paid jobs means its potential goes so much further,” said Helen Dickinson. “It seems the Chancellor does not share in our ambition, and today’s Budget will do nothing to deliver a better future for retailers and their customers.”

While Dickinson said that the chancellor had done little to promote growth and investment, she did say that a cut to national insurance might go some way to support households impacted by the higher cost of living. But she warned that if the government doesn’t address its imposed cost increases, there may be a return to higher inflation.

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