High Street

Retailers plan increased store space despite business rates challenge

According to RSM, 58% of physical retailers plan to increase their retail store footprint, despite 34% citing business rates as their biggest barrier

Mid-market retailers are set to invest in more physical stores over the next two years in a bid to increase their store space and focus on the in-store customer experience, new research from RSM has found.  

Its latest survey revealed that 58% of physical retailers plan to increase their retail store footprint, despite 34% believing that business rates are the “biggest barrier to remaining competitive”.

According to RSM, however, the majority of retailers are looking to enhance their online offering as consumer habits continue to shift to online, with 83% and 78% looking to increase the volume and range of products online, respectively.

In light of this, 60% of retailers plan to increase warehousing in the next 12 months, although 24% state the cost of warehousing and the availability of warehousing (23%) is another barrier, in addition to business rates. 

Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK, said: “When we see household names disappear for good, or go solely online, people start questioning the relevance of the high street in an increasingly digital world. However, mid-market retailers are planning to invest in more stores –evolving the high street and offering consumers a different, more enhanced shopping experience.  

“Retailers are pushing ahead with this investment despite the ongoing burden of business rates and the crippling impact that they are having on the sector. Many will be hoping the long-awaited business rates review due this Autumn will deliver significant changes, in particular reducing the tax that can be higher than rents in many cases.” 

She added: “Realigning this imbalance is crucial to support the sector to compete effectively with online only businesses and others vying for a share of consumer spend. The Government needs to step up and announce business rate reform in the Autumn Statement to safeguard the future of the high street.

Kelly Boorman, head of construction at RSM UK, added: “To meet the growing needs of the online market, there is acute demand for warehouse space. This is not only fuelling rent inflation and supply shortages; but it’s driving a boom in construction as the UK plays catch up to this accelerated shift in consumer behaviour. 

“However, wide-spread material and skills shortages across the construction sector, combined with challenges around planning, are slowing down progress, which could create a longer-term barrier to growth for retailers.”

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