EXCLUSIVE: Retailer warns measures to save high street shops could negatively impact mobility dealers
Following recent proposals made by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee designed to save the UK’s struggling high streets, Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of Hereford-based mobility retailer TPG DisableAids, has contended that the suggested measures could be detrimental to mobility retailers.
On the 21st February, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee published its High streets and town centres in 2030 report, urging local councils, central government, retailers, and landlords to take urgent action to rescue failing high streets in the wake of a shift to online shopping and falling footfall.
Recommendations in the report included a review of business taxes, including the introduction of an online sales tax, a reduction in business rates for retailers operating on the high streets and in town centres, as well as a property improvement incentive scheme which would see high street retailers exempt from rate increases for 12-months after investing in store improvements.
Discussing the proposed ideas, Alastair signalled the changes may prove to be unhelpful for retailers in the mobility market whose operations are often not situated on the high street.
“Regarding the report on high street trading, I believe there may actually be a significant negative for our industry depending on what is classed as ‘High Street’,” he highlighted.
“For many years, developing and growing mobility dealers and retailers have needed to move out of high streets to offer the facilities needed by the disabled and ageing clientele.”
In particular, Alastair says mobility retailers have needed to offer customers more accessibility in terms of parking immediately outside their shop fronts, as well as requiring the room to offer in-depth assessments and scooter training with test tracks in a safe environment.
“This has led to many retailers being located on the edge of towns on trading estates where the required space is available,” asserted Alastair.
“A reduction in high street rates will not help these responsible retailers at all.”
In addition, the report said an urgent review of taxation is required by central government, with a focus on levelling the playing field between online and high street retailers. In particular, the review suggested ideas including replacing business rates for retailers with a sales tax or an increase in VAT, introducing an online sales tax that would supplement the existing business rates system; and ‘green taxes’ on deliveries and packaging.
Commenting on the idea of an online sales tax, Alastair said: “With regards to an ‘online’ tax, again, this is not very helpful to the retailers that have a mix of shop front and online trading. Where do you draw the line? Is it web shop sales or the odd trade-in that is sold via the local Facebook car boot sale?”
To address the disparity between online-exclusive and physical mobility retailers, Alastair suggested: “Pure internet sales organisations should certainly contribute more in the way of tax to level the playing field but this method potentially already exists in our marketplace by removing the ability to sell VAT zero-rated online.
“This has the effect of raising online prices by 20 percent and encouraging customers to visit a store.”