Retail experts have warned that recent job losses will be the “tip of the iceberg” without further support from the Treasury, as new figures reveal about 850 jobs have been lost from the sector each working day since the start of the year.
New analysis from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) shows 27,096 jobs have been shed and 1,023 stores have been earmarked for closure so far in 2021.
The research, which covers insolvencies by retailers with 10 or more stores, highlights the turmoil on the high street, which has seen the recent collapses of Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group.
Professor Joshua Bamfield of the CRR warned “these losses will be the tip of the iceberg” without an extension of the current business rates holiday and moratorium on evictions by landlords.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Government launched a break on business rates for retail, hospitality and leisure firms until the end of the current financial year, 31 March.
Retail bosses have called on the Chancellor to extend the relief in the 3 March Budget, but also to complete a major overhaul of the current business rates system.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued its latest statistical guidance on Wednesday, forecasting that councils in England will collect £24.8 billion for the next year – with no provision for an extension of the rates holiday in its forecast.
It has been reported that the Government is still considering an extension to the rent holiday, but Prof Bamfield warned “this will simply kick the can down the road” as he called for greater support.
“Government loans enabling retailers to turn unpaid rents accumulated during the crisis into fixed-term repayable loans could be the answer as part of a wider basket of support,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Scottish Government extended its business rates holiday for the next financial year, increasing pressure on the Chancellor further.
Robert Hayton, UK president of property tax at real estate adviser Altus Group, said: “Lockdown restrictions and changing consumer habits mean our high streets are far from capable of bearing the burden right now, but the extension must be discerning and targeted to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”