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The British Retail Consortium has again called on the government to overhaul the UK’s “outdated” business rates system after new official figures showed the number of physical shops fell by 3,200 over the past four years

Data from the Office of National Statistics’ ‘UK business: activity, size and location’ which was published yesterday shows the number of physical shops in the UK has fallen by almost 3,200 over the past four years, down 1.2% to 263,070.

The figures showed a drop of 690 over the past year – a fall of 0.3%.

The worst hit regions over the past four years have been Scotland (-4.1%), Wales (-3.9%) and the North East, South West and Yorkshire and Humber all at -2.1%.

Rachel Lund, head of insights and analytics at the British Retail Consortium commented: “Retail is undergoing a transformation driven by changes in shopping habits, new technology, stiff competition and an increasing regulatory burden. Many retailers are responding by refining their business models, investing in technology, improving their logistics capabilities and reducing their store portfolios.

“The continued cumulative burden of public policy costs is accelerating the pace of this change. This data reinforces the need for the Government to demonstrate their commitment to “backing business” and use the upcoming budget to reduce the disproportionate cost of the outdated business rates system.”

Morning update

After all eyes were on Tesco (TSCO) yesterday for its interm results, there is very little in the way of grocery and fmcg news this morning.

Waitrose’s weekly sales update shows sales for the week to 29 September excluding fuel dropped 2.2% compared to the same week last year.

Waitrose stated: “Sunny but cold weather for much of the country drove sales of autumnal food. Slow cooked meat joints saw a boost - particularly beef and lamb - as did our range of stocks and gravies, which were up by 11% on this time last year.”

Sales are down 0.5% in the first 9 weeks of its new financial year.

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has plunged 0.6% so far this morning to 7,463.8pts.

Some major international fmcg companies have been badly hit so far today. Fallers include British American Tobacco (BATS), down 4.8% to 3,398.4p, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), down 3% to 6,944p, Imperial Brands (IMB), down 2.1% to 2,634p, Unilever (ULVR), down 2% to 4,141p, Coca-Cola HBC (CCH), down 1.7% to 2,557p and Ocado (OCDO), down 1.8% to 898.4p.

Early risers include PureCircle (PURE), up 3.9% to 374p, Produce Investments, up 2.7% to 188p, Majestic Wine (WINE), up 1.1% to 384.3p and Associated British Foods (ABF), up 1% to 2,291p.

Yesterday in the City

Tesco’s second quarter UK sales were better than expected and the supermarket posted a double-digit rise in total first half revenues and operating profits, but its shares still plunged 8.6% yesterday back to 215p.

Although Tesco made progress on its bottom line - operating profit before exceptional items and amortisation of acquired intangibles were up 23.9% to £933m at constant exchange rates and up 24.4% at actual rates – a 6.5% fall in headline operating profits to £819m disappointed the market.

Additionally, Tesco’s international businesses experienced far weaker performance than its core UK and Ireland operations with Central Europe profit down 3.3%, while its profits in Asia sank 29.1%.

Despite Tesco’s woes the FTSE 100 rose 0.5% to 7,510.3pts yesterday.

Tesco’s fellow grocery retailers had better days, with Ocado (OCDO), up 2.2% to 915p, Marks & Spencer (MKS), up 1.3% to 286.9p, Sainsbury’s (SBRY), up 1.3% to 323p and Morrisons (MRW), up 1.2% to 260.7p.

Other risers included Greencore (GNC), up 4% to 192.3p, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), up 1.5% to 7,155p, FeverTree (FEVR), up 2.1% to 3,632p, McColl’s (MCLS), up 2% to 142.8p and Greene King (GNK), up 1.4% to 492p.

The day’s fallers included Majestic Wine (WINE), down 6.9% to 380p, PureCircle (PURE), down 5.3% to 360p, McBride (MCB), down 3.1% to 136p, Produce Investments, down 2.1% to 183p and Compass Group (CPG), down 1.8% to 1,679p.