Business rates a final nail in High Street coffin, Shropshire property expert says

One final nail in the High Street retail coffin is about to be hammered into place unless action is taken now, says a leading Shropshire commercial property expert.

The warning comes after a string of High Street giants have been forced to axe shops and jobs or go out of business altogether in the first six months of the year.

Retailers are now closing stores at a faster rate than during the recession as more consumers are turning to online shopping and businesses are facing ever increasing costs.

James Evans, of Halls Commercial based in Shrewsbury, said he believed business rates must be abolished and free parking introduced to town centres to help traders through this deeply worrying time.

“It’s ironic but we are finding sales and lettings of commercial property are booming at the moment but there are problems in town centres and the High Street has to be treated as a stand alone project - one I feel needs immediate action otherwise we will not have a High Street to visit,” he said.

“The big question on everyone’s lips at central Government is should we get rid of business rates? I strongly feel the business rate system has to go - it’s an archaic system which no longer has any place on our High Street.

“I fear for the future and unless action is taken to reverse this trend then we will soon be witness to the final nail in the High Street retail coffin. We must not let it happen.”

Mr Evans highlighted the plight of some of the biggest names on the High Street who now find themselves in the position of having to close branches, cut back on staff or in some cases go out of business altogether.

News headlines in recent months have regularly featured the troubles of major players who have had to look again at the viability and economics of their situation. Companies like Toys R Us, Maplin, House of Fraser, Mothercare Debenhams, M&S, Tesco, Poundworld, Homebase, Carphone Warehouse and Carpetright.

There are reports of tens of thousands of jobs lost or at risk currently and it is estimated some 50,000 stores across the country are now surplus to requirements - with the general feeling that things are only likely to get worse.

A recent survey revealed that one half of all small businesses are extremely worried about business rates which, when coupled with other soaring prices, are making it prohibitive in many cases to even consider setting up shop on the High Street. 

“If big national firms are hit it is difficult to see how we can expect many of our independent traders to survive,” added Mr Evans.

“This is a problem that many people across the business, local and central Government sectors are worried about and they are looking at ways to turn things around. 

“I strongly believe if business rates were abolished and free parking introduced in our town centres it would help our retailers and encourage more people into our High Streets.”