A leading independent association has called for business rates to be cut for Britain’s “struggling” high street, claiming that estate agents are one of the three types of firms most likely to be in trouble, and that three stores a day closed last year in the UK.
The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) says a report it has commissioned into the state of the UK’s high streets reveals that newsagents, women’s clothing stores and estate agents are being affected most by both high business rates but also Brexit and online competition.
The situation is in stark contrast to 2016 when a similar report highlighted how service estate agents were opening the most new branches on the UK’s high street.
BIRA Chief Executive Alan Hawkins (pictured, left), who commissioned the report off the Local Data Company (LDC), says the key problem is the UK’s astronomical business rates, which apply to those trading on the high street but are usually dodged by estate agent’s online competitors.
These, like many hybrid agent’s local representatives, work from home rather than a high street address.
He says that some 65% of shops on high streets today are independent, many of which are estate agents, and that “if we don’t find a way out of the current situation the Government is going to be left with the problem of what to do with these high streets that have nothing there,” he told the Daily Express.
“These figures come as no surprise. Uncertainty over Brexit, changing shopping habits, a harsh winter and real incomes falling all explain these figures.
“The consumer is king and if they want to buy online then that is their call, you can’t do anything about it. But you can’t leave the cost base with the old high street and expect it to survive with a new entrant, the internet.”
The BIRA/LDC report also reveals that the high street businesses doing the best are hair dressers, coffee shops and beauty salons.