High street

Retail chains should pay a one-off levy to help support the high street

Supermarkets and other retail and leisure chains should fund a new one-off levy to help rescue the high street, according to the author of a new report.

Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Iceland and Wickes, recommended in his alternative review that national retail and leisure chains should invest 0.25% of one year’s UK sales from 2014 into a local economic development fund, which would be used to help sponsor start-ups and new ventures on the high street.

Grimsey claimed the move would create a fighting fund of around £550m, far greater than the £20m the government has so far ploughed into high-street initiatives.

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“The time has come for the big chains to put something back and help redesign the high street,” said Grimsey. “What we’ve seen in a lot of secondary town centre locations is that as the chains move out to more lucrative out of town sites, they’re hollowing out the high street. 

“The big players have made a lot of money out of the high street over the years, and they should put something back. They could achieve far more than the government has and leave a lasting and powerful legacy. If this money was spent wisely, it could make a massive difference.”

Grimsey said a levy would work best if the money were administered through a central fund overseen by independent trustees that would include some of the biggest contributors to the fund.

“It would be absolutely vital that business had confidence in how their money was being spent,” he added.

Grimsey’s call for a levy on major retail and leisure chains is one of 31 recommendations to feature in his alternative review of the high street, which will be launched on Wednesday. Other issues include business rates, long-term planning, using technology to create ‘networked towns’, car parking, access to finance for small business, charity shops and planning regulations.