30/06/2011

Retail Consortium Launched After Rates Hike

Only days after a tax increase for large retailers was mooted, a major British retailer group has announced it is expanding its operation to Northern Ireland.

The new Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) officially launched in Belfast on Thursday, claiming that any new tax would mean the end of thousands of jobs.

The group said it would be urging the Northern Ireland Executive to work with major retailers to "support jobs and attract inward investment".

On Tuesday, the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, launched a consultation that could see big retail stores paying a lot more in rates, while smaller businesses would pay less.

The proposals would mean 26 large retailers, who hold 77 retail premises, would pay an extra £85,000 a year in rates per premises.

This would mean an average rates saving for small businesses of around £750, allowing many of them to stay afloat.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on Thursday announced it was expanding its activity with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly with the NIRC. The group said its representatives will be meeting with Stormont ministers.

NIRC Director, Jane Bevis, said: “The tax being considered on large retail premises risks doing long-term damage to Northern Ireland’s town centres, employment figures and business reputation.

"We agree small retailers need a helping hand and that high streets need investment and regeneration. But this levy would also hit high street locations and be a disincentive to growth, doing more harm than good.

The group said that top of its list of priorities was setting out the case against the proposed Large Retailer Levy, which it claimed would "discourage growth and endanger job creation. Between them, some of the large retailers due to be affected have plans to create at least 6,000 new jobs in Northern Ireland over the next three years."

According to the BBC, powerful retailer Tescos will be the company worst affected. Sammy Wilson said the executive wanted to create the right conditions for a sustained economic recovery.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Wilson said: "The downturn has been very difficult for most sectors of the economy but some have fared better than others during this period. The large retail sector is a case in point."

(DW/KMcA)

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