That’s the verdict of retail and leisure sector specialists of Barker Storey Matthews (now part of
Eddisons) in reviewing the Chancellor’s announcement of a package of measures intended to assist
the already struggling sector against the backdrop of the COVID‐19 virus outbreak.
The headline grabbing measure of 100 per cent business rates relief for all retail operators in the
coming financial year (2020/2021) on properties with a rateable value below £51,000 is to be
welcomed but is acknowledged as a short term only fix.
This latest announcement builds on the temporary measure announced in the Budget of 2018 and
sees the relief extended to leisure and hospitality sector operators.
But while welcoming the tenor and broad sweep of this measure, Barker Storey Matthews points out
that the exact definition of operators in this sector set to benefit ‐ for example, children’s soft play
or indoor trampoline party businesses ‐ has yet to be clarified in detail.
Also welcomed by Barker Storey Matthews is the one‐off payment of £3,000 small businesses are set
to receive as part of the £2.2 billion the Chancellor has channelled towards local authorities.
Yet Barker Storey Matthews believes that the Budget statement is as notable for what it did not
contain about the ongoing position of high street retailers and the property industry’s clarion call on
the matter of the current business rates regime.
Julian Welch, Barker Storey Matthews’ retail specialist, explained, “Big name high street retailers
create the footfall on which smaller retailers and leisure sector operators capitalise.
“The ongoing absence of any measures to address the fundamental imbalance between the
advantageous position of click retailers versus those with bricks is concerning.
“The broad consensus is that the business rates model, through which this imbalance can begin to
be addressed, is broken and the property industry will continue to lobby for its fundamental reform.
“That the Chancellor has kicked the review of this system down the road again, to later this year, is
unhelpful and is, once again, a missed opportunity to really help the retail sector and the wider