John Lewis chair Sharon White has called for chancellor Rishi Sunak to scrap the business rates system in favour of a new land tax which could help “level up” the playing field when it comes to physical and online retail.
Speaking to The Telegraph, White said that reform is needed to create a more “stable and enduring” way to tax.
She told the paper: “If I’m frustrated it’s because we haven’t yet had action on the structural issue, which is that the business rates regime was designed for a world in which retail dominated the high street.”
White also dismissed calls for an online sales tax, calling the idea that there is such a divisive line between bricks and mortar retailers and online retailers as “fiction”.
White added John Lewis’ focus is now on ensuring its survival through adapting to the changing expectations of retail.
Earlier this year, John Lewis closed eight of its 42 John Lewis at the time placing 1,465 jobs at risk.
The eight shops identified for closure included four ‘At Home’ shops in Ashford, Basingstoke, Chester and Tunbridge Wells and four department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York.
The move reportedly came after “substantial research” undertaken by the group to identify and cater for new customer shopping habits in different parts of the country. As part of this, the company said it “can no longer profitably sustain a large John Lewis store”.
At the time Pippa Wicks, executive director for John Lewis,said: “Closing stores is the toughest thing we do as a Partnership because we all own our business. If the closures are confirmed, every effort will be made to find new roles for Partners and for us to continue to serve our customers by providing access to John Lewis in different ways.”