Retailers have urged the Government to reform the business rates system as part of the effort to help high streets recover from the pandemic.
The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that retail sales increased by 6.4% in July, against a growth of 3.2% in during the same month last year. This is below the three-month average growth of 14.7% and the 12-month average growth of 10.4%.
On a two-year basis, total retail sales grew by 9.1%.
‘July continued to see strong sales, although growth has started to slow,’ said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.
‘The lifting of restrictions did not bring the anticipated in-store boost, with the wet weather leaving consumers reluctant to visit shopping destinations.
‘Online sales remained strong, and with weddings and other social events back on for the summer calendar, formalwear and beauty all began to see notable improvement, so fashion outlets in particular saw a bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.
‘As many people prepare to return to the workplace, purchase of home office equipment began to fall after months of high sales, meanwhile other homeware, such as furniture and household appliances continued to do well.’
Ms Dickinson warned that the vacancy rate is continuing to rise and called for a reform of what she described as the ‘broken’ business rates system.
‘Unfortunately, the current broken business rates system continues to hold back retailers, hindering vital investment into retail innovation and the blended physical-digital retail offering,’ she said.
‘The Government must ensure the upcoming business rates review permanently reduces the cost burden to sustainable levels. Retailers want to play their part in building back a better future for local communities, and Government must give them the tools to do so.’