Waterstones m.d. James Daunt (above) has called on the government to address the issue of high business rates which disadvantage high street businesses compared to online operations. The government intends to up business rates by 2.6% in April, despite the squeeze on consumer spending.
"Rates is a huge additional tax on the high street that is disproportionately high," Daunt said. "The government should seek to collect as much tax as it can ... but at what point do rates tip viable retailers out of the high street? Our political masters need to address this. We have a tax on our operations that the online guys don't."
Daunt drew a contrast with online retailer Amazon which he said had received a subsidy from the Scottish government for opening a warehouse in Dundee, adding that "they are putting on the dole queue countless numbers of relatively unskilled people who are going to find it extremely difficult to get jobs".
Sydney Davies, head of trade and industry at the Booksellers Association, said over a third of the respondents that participated in the recent British Retail Consortium's SME survey were booksellers, who "almost all agreed that the planned increase in April will be damaging to their local high streets and make their businesses less viable". The BA supports the British Retail Consortium's campaign to freeze business rates.