Retailers optimistic for 2015 but rates reform still top priority

A snapshot survey carried out by the BRC has shown UK retailers are optimistic about their fortunes in 2015; with many predicting an improvement in sales and increases in both investment and employment levels over the next twelve months.

The survey showed that 76% of respondents reported that they expected their sales to improve in 2015 compared with 2014. 67% of retailers said that their investment levels were set to increase and 78% said they were likely to be employing more staff next year.

When asked to list their top concerns for the year ahead, 68% responded that weak consumer demand worried them most, followed by the continuing pressure of business rates (53%) and weakness in the economy (47%). However, when asked what changes the Government could bring forward to make the UK a better place to do business, a sizable majority of the retailers surveyed (74%) opted for fundamental reform of business rates – proving once again this remains a key concern for the UK's largest private sector employer.

Commenting on the survey results Helen Dickinson, BRC Director General, said: "It's great to see British retailers optimistic about the coming twelve months. After a number of years battling against strong economic headwinds and shaky consumer confidence, it seems as though retailers are set for some cheer in 2015.

''However, given the tentative nature of the recovery in consumer confidence it's natural that retailers are cautious about the longevity of the upswing we've seen recently. It's also no surprise that the fundamental reform of business rates has come out as top priority for government action. It is an outdated and punitive tax.

''We're delighted that the Government has decided to back British retailing by committing to review the business rates system and we look forward to working with Government during the course of the review. As the figures from our survey show, the retail industry will be doing its part to drive growth in 2015 – by investing and creating jobs – but these efforts will be hampered if serious solutions to the burden of business rates are not found."

The BRC's snapshot survey was conducted during November 2014. Respondents covered a range of sectors and represent around 18% of the retail industry by sales value.

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