Dow Jones Newswires: U.K. retailers group calls for business rates freeze to support investment, protect consumers

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The U.K. government should freeze business rates to support investment and help keep prices low for consumers, the British Retail Consortium has said ahead of a planned 800 million-pound ($930.2 million) increase from April.

The trade association for U.K. retailers’ Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said Friday that the operating costs for businesses remain high and demand will be tested by the fragile economy and falling consumer confidence ahead of the Christmas period.

An increase in rates, as retailers are also facing higher costs, would force businesses to make decisions on new store investments and the closure of existing locations, she added. Systemic reform should also be undertaken, Ms. Dickinson said.

The British Retail Consortium’s chief executive called on the U.K. government to make the changes as the industry body released statistics for the third quarter of 2022 that showed the overall shop vacancy rate decreased to 13.9%, 0.1 percentage points better than the prior quarter and 0.6 percentage points better on year. The outturn marked the fourth consecutive quarter of falling vacancy rates.

All locations saw improvements in the quarter, the BRC said. Shopping-center vacancies fell to 18.8% from 18.9% in the second quarter, high-street vacancies decreased to 13.9% from 14.0% in the previous three months and retail-park vacancies decreased to 9.7%, a 0.5 percentage point improvement from the comparable period.

London, the South East and the East of England had the lowest vacancy rates, while the highest were in the North East, followed by Wales and the West Midlands, the BRC said.

“The overall shop vacancy rate improved for the fourth consecutive quarter; however, vacancies remain higher than prepandemic levels. Some locations are benefiting from a pickup in tourism and a gradual return to offices, but levels of footfall are still below those of 2019,” Ms. Dickinson said.

Write to Kyle Morris at kyle.morris@dowjones.com

This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.

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