Small business federation sets out biggest challenges facing high street retailers

Lower Goat Lane in Norwich Lanes. Picture: Denise Bradley

Lower Goat Lane in Norwich Lanes. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

A manifesto setting out how the government can better support the nation's high-street businesses has been met with some scepticism from retailers.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has made recommendations to government, which revolve largely around business rates reductions and consumer access to cash and parking.

However, independent small business owners in Norfolk and Suffolk felt that instead of changing high street retailing policies, the priority should be to put greater pressure on online retailers to pay their share.

Raymond Joscelyne owns Design House Norwich, and said: 'Business rates for us aren't too bad, they haven't gone up in the six years we've been here. Online retailers need to start contributing more, and I think it hasn't been done because the government doesn't know how to implement it.'

What do you think? Have your say at the bottom of this story.

The FSB is calling for:

• A freeze in business rates from April 2019.

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• The abolition of a policy which means rate relief is rescinded once businesses expand to a second property. Instead, the group is suggesting that rate relief should be applied to the personal threshold of the business owner, whose value across sites is below £15,000.

• Easier systems allowing owners to appeal their business rates.

• Car parking improvements, described by the FSB as a 'huge issue to high streets'.

• The FSB has suggested the cut to cash machine funding and bank branches has lead to a decrease in footfall, and has called for the protection of the Post Office network.

David Howell, East Anglia area lead at the FSB, said: 'Local authorities throughout Norfolk and Suffolk have come up with some innovative schemes for supporting small firms on the high street. But it's clear the pressure is mounting.

'We want to see government and local authorities to look at real solutions to these issues, so that our high streets can thrive.'

Retailers and the FSB alike also raised the point that better transport routes would also increase demand, allowing consumers to search between locations for items instead of turning to the internet.

The five reports into each suggestion will be used to lobby local MPs, and be used to centre discussions in round table meetings.

What do you think? Have your say at the bottom of this story.

Retailers have their say on high street challenges

Raymond Joscelyne has owned Design House Norwich for six years, alongside wife Jill.

He said: 'Business rates in Norwich are much better than in other areas like Cambridge, and councils have to make their money somehow.

'However online retailers do have to start contributing, I think a tax on their turnover would be the way to do it, taxing their profit would just be another form of VAT.'

Mr Joscelyne continued: 'We're in the city centre and parking charges don't affect our footfall, if anything I think pedestrianisation is something which needs to be looked at in more cities in East Anglia.

'Retailers are increasingly talking about the shopping experience needing to be more like theatre, and having clean, safe streets is part of that. There's little price difference between high street and online retailers now, so we need to start thinking about why people are choosing one over the other.'

Independent traders in Ipswich agreed that tackling business rates and making town centres more accessible were key to regenerating the high street.

Lynn Turner, of Cake and Catwalk boutique, said: 'Parking is the big thing, to my mind.

'We have to make it as easy as possible for people to come into town. We have to encourage people to come into town centres. Let's try something new.'

Cathy Frost, of Love One gift shop, added: 'We need more car parking – not free parking but fairer parking.

'When I am not working and I come into town for some shopping, I park for £2 after 2pm. We need to make it fairer for independent stores.

'They need to look again at business rates, which is a big burden. Longer term the government needed to tackle the online-only traders too,' she said.

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