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Waterstones boss warns of closures unless gov extends rates relief

Daunt added that the majority of its landlords have been ‘entirely responsive and sensible’

James Daunt, the boss of book retailer Waterstones, has warned that he could be forced to close stores unless the government extends its business rates relief and other forms of state aid.

Talking to Retail Week, he said that while he has no intention to close stores currently – it would likely to change unless the one-year business rates relief is extended past April.

Daunt added that the majority of its landlords have been “entirely responsive and sensible” by bringing down the cost of rent across the portfolio and would like to see the government match that commitment.

He revealed that the company operates a small number of stores in “retail-deprived areas” that are not incredibly successful but remain open as he believes in the importance of having a bookstore available in those areas.

Daunt is not the first to call for a rates relief extension. Back in September, Sadiq Khan and London Councils urged the government to extend the business rates holiday and help protect thousands of jobs in London and across the country.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors are currently benefiting from 100% relief from business rates for the 2020/21 financial year, in order to help them recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of a joint submission to the government’s business rates review, Sadiq and London Councils are calling for an extension to the current business rates holiday to 2021/22.

Khan said such a move would provide “crucial support” to businesses reeling from a huge drop in footfall and lack of public confidence due to Covid-19, with the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors the worst hit.

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