British Retail Consortium plea to Chancellor as garden centre sales pick up

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne that consumer confidence remains "stubbornly weak", sales growth is "flat" and costs for businesses are rising "rapidly".

In a submission sent to Osborne ahead of next month’s Autumn Statement, the BRC sets out six priorities that it says will help the economy recover.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said as retailers battle multiple challenges including slow sales growth, falling consumer confidence and rising costs, retail CEOs are telling the BRC the Government should:

  • Freeze business rates in 2013.  Rates have risen by more than 10 per cent in the last two years, and are set to rise by 2.6 per cent in April next year if they are based on September’s Retail Price Index (RPI).  This would add over £175 million to retailers’ bills at a time of relentlessly tough trading conditions.
  • Abandon the planned increases in fuel duty to support hard-pressed consumers and businesses.  Fuel duty is set to rise by 3p a litre in January 2013.
  • Reform the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme.  The BRC argues that this scheme is too costly to administer and needs simplifying for all participants.
  • Permit a one year National Insurance Contributions (NIC) holiday for all employers taking on a young person.
  • Ensure that National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases remain at affordable levels and do not exceed long-term movements in average earnings.
  • Utilise the potential growth of online retailing by reinvesting the proceeds of the forthcoming 4G auction in the roll-out of high speed broadband.  

Meanwhile garden centre retail sales for the week ending 11 November showed a rise of three per cent on the same week in 2011.

Aquatics were up 20 per cent, books down two per cent, Christmas up six per cent, clothing down four per cent, craft down 10 per cent, food up three per cent, sundries down five per cent, gifts up one per cent, houseplants flat, outdoor plants down 12 per cent, pets up five per cent and restaurant up 12 per cent.

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