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Retail


Treasury urged to be flexible on business rates


Business rates experts at Colliers International – which has an office in Birmingham – are calling on the Treasury to introduce a more flexible policy towards many smaller businesses who may not be able to access Government grants. Those missing out are in


serviced offices, where they usually pay a fixed all-inclusive monthly service agreement to their office provider to costs including rent, rates, and service charges. The provider then claims the small business rates on behalf of the business. However, this means these


businesses will fall outside of the Government aid plan, which so far consists of a grant of £10,000 for small businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 and under, whatever sector they might be in. These are effectively smaller


businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief and include many office occupiers. The grants are being paid out now. Colliers believes those missing


out could be losing up to £100 million of vital support. The firm estimates that there could be 10,000 such smaller businesses in serviced offices who have no established individual rating assessment, and, as things currently stand, such businesses are not able to claim the much- needed grants. Colliers believe this represents about five per cent of the small business market. John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers, who handle


about 90 per cent of the businesses in the serviced operating sector, said: “In deciding to allocate grants based on rateable values, the Government was aware that about five per cent of smaller businesses, who are in serviced offices, might lose out, but the decisions had to be made quickly and support announced as soon as possible. “There is no criticism of the


Government, it acted with speed, but it must acknowledge that this is a big problem.” “Now that we are seeing some


of the fall out for these small businesses located in co-working and serviced office space, we request the Treasury to show some flexibility in its approach to this issue. “We need the Treasury to


inform the billing authority who are handling the grants that such small businesses are an exceptional case and allow us to illustrate who should be eligible for the grants, on a building by building basis. “We believe we would be able


to do this quickly, enabling such companies to claim their grants they so desperately need. “These are torrid times for


businesses, many of whom are struggling to stay solvent, and are desperately in need of the grants on offer. We have already started to petition the Treasury and we hope that the spirit of support and common sense that the Government has already shown to business, is extended here.”


Sector Focus


This really is our biggest challenge


I have spoken many times about the challenges faced by the retail industry, but even as recently as a couple of months ago, I would never have predicted that our biggest challenge was yet to come – Covid-19. It’s almost certain that the Covid-


19 pandemic will be the biggest challenge we experience in our lifetime, its effects significantly impacting each and every one of us. The nation has pulled together


like never before in peacetime, and I for one am incredibly proud of how the retail industry has responded so quickly and positively, at a time when not only were retailers faced with having their businesses pulled out from under them, but more importantly, the health of their staff and customers was at stake. Within days of Covid-19


restrictions being mooted, many retailers had shown their true capabilities in innovating, adapting and supporting. Beauty and fashion brands


swiftly transformed their manufacturing plants and supply chains to produce much-needed medical essentials such as hand- sanitiser and hospital scrubs, while restaurant and hospitality businesses transformed into delivery and takeaway services to feed the nation while supporting social distancing. It is also wonderful to see the


industry’s compassionate side coming to the fore, with initiatives such as the CaRe20 collaboration between the RWRC, retailTRUST and the British Retail Consortium pledging to raise £10million to support retail staff facing financial distress. Furthermore, at a time when


they are being hit harder than ever before, many brands are donating


Retail Therapy


By Tony Elvin General manager, Touchwood


sizeable cash sums to the fight against Covid-19 to support hospital care and medical research, and others are providing food, care packages and discounts to NHS staff in the hope of helping to make their tough days just a fraction easier. The effects of Covid-19 have also


allowed us to see just how important the work of retail employees is, particularly in the food and pharmacy sector. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank not only those currently providing pharmacy services within Touchwood, but all those within our industry who are working hard on the frontline to provide access to food, medicine and essentials. Not forgetting those who are doing that simple, yet vital action of staying at home. While we cannot know for sure


what the future holds and what the full impact of Covid-19 will be, I can assure you that we are all doing what we can to get through these difficult times. We encourage you all to stay part of our wonderful Touchwood community via our social media channels and we look forward to being able to welcome you back to the centre soon.


Retail BID’s security team are the wheel deal


Retail BID (Business Improvement District) Birmingham has invested in four mountain bikes to enable its patrol officers to cover large parts of the city centre swiftly during the coronavirus lockdown. The high-profile security team is


On their bikes: The BID patrol team


providing a reassuring presence across the city centre shopping district during the coronavirus lockdown and partnering with West Midlands Police and neighbouring BIDs to make sure locked businesses and visitors are checked frequently, while supporting essential stores that are still open.


The team covers the whole of


the Retail BID area through two dedicated walking and cycling routes, this ensures all BID member properties are checked daily to ensure there has not been any damage caused through anti-social behaviour and all premises remain secure. The officers have extended their


patrol area to cover Birmingham Children’s Hospital to help protect doctors and nurses travelling to and from work as they provide critical care during the unprecedented health crisis.


The patrol team is working


throughout the week in pairs and can be contacted on the City Safe digital radio network. BID chair Sam Watson said:


“During these very worrying times we appreciate the concerns of members and the Retail BID team of business patrol officers are continuing to offer a full security service each day for businesses, offering support for the essential food stores, chemists and banks as well as offering high-visibility protection for business premises that have had to close.”


May 2020 CHAMBERLINK 65


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