Retail trade union Usdaw has today launched a retail recovery plan to help struggling high streets build back better from the coronavirus crisis. The union is challenging the Chancellor to provide immediate assistance, in tomorrow’s Budget, for a struggling retail industry to help high streets, save our shops and protect jobs.

Usdaw’s key calls for this year’s Budget on Wednesday 3 March are:

  1. Extend the current business rates holiday to at least the end of the year and fundamentally reform this outdated and imbalanced commercial property tax.
  2. An online sales levy set at 1%, to raise around £1.5bn that could fund a cut in business rates of around 20%.
  3. Extend the moratorium on shop evictions for rent arrears and find a wider solution around unpaid rents, with contributions from retailers, landlords and government.

Usdaw’s full retail recovery plan:

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“The UK retail sector has been impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic on an unprecedented scale. For an industry already facing significant challenges, the long-term impact will be severe.

“Non-essential retailers are among the hardest hit and have been struggling under the pressure of lockdowns and public health restrictions, costing retailers billions in lost sales. Even when shops are allowed to reopen, they will face further challenges and there are big questions about how many high street businesses will survive the coming months.

“The crisis in retail has been further exacerbated by the rapid shift to online shopping, which has grown by 46% over the last 10 months. The longer term challenges facing the sector combined with the impact of the pandemic have and will continue to be catastrophic.

“Aside from the direct impact on jobs, the crisis will result in gaping holes in high streets that sit at the heart of our town centres and communities. Landlords will struggle to fill properties; not least given the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector that prior to 2020 had been keen to occupy the spaces vacated by retailers in recent years. Analysts believe that one in fifty shops has permanently closed and, without targeted intervention, this number will continue to rise.

“We must also look beyond the impact on business and consider the heavy toll the pandemic is taking on retail workers. Whether you work in food retail or on the high street, retail workers are facing extremely challenging times.

“Food retail workers have a key role in keeping the country fed and have worked throughout the pandemic; facing increased levels of abuse and of course concerned about catching Covid-19 and taking it home to their families.

“In non-essential retail, we have seen a crisis which has impacted huge numbers of retail workers. As the crisis developed several well-known retailers have fallen into administration, closed stores and cut jobs. Even where jobs are retained, many retail workers are struggling on very low pay as well as facing further pressures on working hours and other conditions.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed many retailers and retail workers to breaking point, so government action needs to be equally significant. Usdaw is calling for an urgent retail recovery plan that provides necessary support for the retail industry. Tomorrow the Chancellor has the opportunity to make a significant difference and we hope he’s listening.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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