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Autumn Budget is ‘double-edged sword’ for independent retailers

Published:  28 October, 2021

Business rates and the national minimum wage represent a ‘double-edged sword’ for independents retailers, the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) has claimed.

The trade group said it was pleased that Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his autumn Budget is to introduce a 50% discount on business rates for retailers and scrap the planned increase on fuel duty.

However, the increase in the national minimum wage from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour will undoubtedly have a “serious detrimental effect” on independent retailers’ ability to employ and retain staff.

“In an ideal world, we would all like to pay our staff more, and we can understand the Chancellor’s desire to help people at the lower end of the pay scale. But the headline increase in the wage rate does not include the increase in National Insurance and pension contributions, as well as the forthcoming social care levy, that employers also have to pay,” said NFRN national president Narinder Randhawa.

“Rather than boosting many shop workers’ incomes, the increase in the minimum wage will have the opposite effect of threatening jobs in the sector.”

Randhawa added that independent retailers had already been hit hard by the Covid pandemic, with many having to reduce staff levels and hours and take on more of the work themselves.

“This increase to the national minimum wage and the inevitable knock-on effects will only make matters worse,” he said.

He welcomed the cancellation of a planned increase on fuel duty that will come as a relief to those retailers who provide home delivery services and added that the organisation “broadly” welcomes the decision to freeze business rates and offer a 50% discount for one year.

“Newsagents and convenience store owners have kept the UK going during all the hardship of the last two years. Now is the time for the government to help us, not turn its back,” he said.

The NFRN has 15,000 stores in membership, a “large number” of which include off licences and independent alcohol retail trade.