It is rare to see an article or opinion piece discussing the dire state of UK retail that doesn't at some point lay some of the blame for the current woes at the feet of the rating system. And indeed, some would suggest that the increasing tax burden from business rates is the standalone retail killer.
But as Ed Cooke, Chief Executive of REVO, explains here, perhaps some regard must be given to the retailers' own strategies. Not all retail is failing and there have been examples in the last few weeks of retailers showing strong results in the face of adverse winds from the perfect storm of business rates increases, town centre stagnation and Brexit.
Notwithstanding all of this, the current levels of business rate liabilities are clearly unsustainable and must be addressed. The system as it stands doesn't adequately cope with changes in consumer activity or swings in value (although it has the means to). It has become bogged down in confusing reliefs, exemptions and an appeal system that is simply not fit for purpose.
It has become a system in which ratepayers and their agents alike have little faith.
Government seems to be listening but the question is whether they like what they hear.
“Many retail businesses are blaming all their woes on rent, but in fact high levels of debt, a lack of investment and a failure to adapt quickly enough to changing consumer preferences are often far bigger issues.”