From a survey of 251,462 shops across the UK, 25,090 closed. In London alone, 7,628 firms shut their doors in the first nine months of the year.
The British Property Federation (BPF) has called for greater government help to support retailers. The trade body has also been leading a charge to make business leases more transparent.
Many retailers will see their rates bills massively increase because they’ll be reassessed based on property values on April 1, 2008. There are also large regional disparities in business rates with retailers in the south west and London facing the biggest increases.
Added on top of this, many retailers, like landlords, have empty space they cannot re-let because of the recession. The government is continuing to hit these firms with empty rates, which Stewart Jackson, the Conservative regeneration spokesman, dismissed as “the most cack-handed thing Labour could have done”. He added that “even Prescott wasn’t that stupid” but then admitted that the Tories would not actually re-apply empty rate relief if they won power.
“Business secretary Lord Mandelson said the government’s empty property tax was ‘good for business’. But if charging a hardship tax on firms’ vacancies is the government’s idea of helping business then I’d hate to see him helping an old lady across the road," says Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation. “Clearly no-one is escaping the recession and it’s vital that ministers offer real help to businesses through a sensible mitigation of the impact of next year’s rise in business rates and a cut in empty property rates."