The British Retail Consortium has mostly welcomed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic update but expressed disappointment at the VAT cut for hospitality and tourism not being extended to the retail sector.
Responding to the update, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “We welcome the chancellor’s huge support for employment and training in the UK as the economy emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Adding: “Any interventions that aim to protect jobs and incomes are vital to households around the country. Time will tell if such measures can also bolster consumer demand, which remains well below pre-crisis levels, and the Chancellor must be ready to take further actions if necessary.”
On employment, she said: “The new Job Retention Bonus will provide welcome support for bringing back hundreds of thousands of staff who have been on furlough in recent months. Furthermore, the measures put in place to support businesses to hire more young people, will be vital to boost the opportunities for them around the UK.”
Dickinson went on to welcome the announcement on training, apprenticeships and wider measures for property.
She explained: “The apprenticeship training landscape is in need of a shot in the arm. The Chancellor’s announcement to incentivise apprenticeships will be welcome news for millions of people of all ages.
“The next steps must be to carry out a wholesale review of the apprenticeship system with the aim of creating more flexibility to enable the Apprenticeship Levy to meet the skills needs of retailers. Retail is evolving; it is essential that those working in the industry, now and in the future, have the digital and technological skills to capitalise.
“Measures to bolster the property market and green home improvements will be warmly welcomed by homeowners and businesses. It is essential that the UK uses the recovery to create a more sustainable and green economy. This is why the retail industry is coming together with a carbon roadmap to plan for a Net Zero future.”
While on the VAT cuts for hospitality and tourism, Dickinson recognised the importance for those sectors but expressed disappointment that the retail sector had not seen a similar cut.
She explained: “The Chancellor’s proposals of a VAT cut will be important in reviving these sectors, and the 1.8 million people who work there. However, it was disappointing that the Chancellor did not extend this measure to the retail industry and the three million people it employs. It was a missed opportunity and we hope that the Government will reconsider this ahead of the Autumn Budget.”