Retail blames rates, regulation for 6,400 job losses

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has blamed a “toxic cocktail” of rising rates and regulatory costs from the Scottish Government for the loss of 6,400 jobs in the industry in the space of one year.

Figures from the Scottish Government showed the number of people employed in the retail sector fell from 250,300 in 2014 to 243,900 in 2015.

The number of people employed in retailing was 16,400 lower than it was in 2008, according to the Scottish Annual Business Statistics.

The data showed 187 fewer retail units in 2015 than there had been the previous year, with the total dropping to 22,425.

The SRC said there were 1,831 fewer stores than there had been in 2008.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “These latest figures graphically highlight the impact of the toxic cocktail of burgeoning tax and regulatory costs and transformational change in the retail industry.

“Sadly, our warnings about the impact of rising government-imposed costs on an industry in profound transition are being borne out, with fewer jobs and fewer retail stores.”

The SRC is demanding the additional levy paid by larger stores in Scotland be scrapped.

Lonsdale also called for a moratorium on any new business rates charges in Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s budget proposals for 2018-19.

Lonsdale said: “Earlier this week we laid out a number of actions the Scottish Government should bring forward in its upcoming budget to encourage investment by retailers in stores and distribution centres, in particular restoring parity with England on the large business rates supplement.”

He slammed the “self-defeating Scotland-only rates surcharge” and argued that it cost retailers £12 million a year — with 5,100 stores across Scotland affected.

Lonsdale added: “We also want to see a moratorium on any new or additional business rates levies, together with clarity over how employers who currently pay the apprenticeship levy in Scotland will be able to access the proposed flexible workforce development fund to offset their training expenditure.

“If we fluff this opportunity to bear down on the costs of doing business, then we risk failing to stem let alone reverse the decline in retail jobs and shops, especially in our more economically-fragile communities.”