The British Retail Consortium (BRC), a trade association for retail businesses in the UK, has responded to the Labour Party’s manifesto, released ahead of the country’s general election on 4 July 2024.

The manifesto outlines Labour’s vision for change, addressing several issues impacting the retail sector.

Reforming business rates

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, commended Labour for including “many of the right policies to help retail invest for the future, upskill its workforce, and play its part in growing the UK economy.”

She particularly praised Labour’s recognition of the current business rates system as “broken,” noting that it limits business investment and leaves many retail premises empty.

Dickinson stressed the importance of any new system reducing the “disproportionate burden on retail,” which currently pays 22% of the total rates bill while accounting for only 5% of the economy.

She also emphasised that any reforms should not hinder customers’ ability to access high-quality, affordable items, whether shopping in-store or online.

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Apprenticeships and skills development

Addressing Labour’s stance on the Apprenticeship Levy, Dickinson highlighted the BRC’s longstanding call for greater flexibility.

She agreed with Labour’s view that the current rigid rules “ignore vital skills and training needed to access apprenticeships.”

Dickinson supported the idea of a flexible Growth and Skills Levy, which she believes could meet the needs of retailers and their employees more effectively.

Protecting retail workers

On worker rights, Dickinson said that ensuring the three million retail workers in the UK feel empowered and protected is essential.

She expressed reassurance at Labour’s commitment to consulting businesses on the implementation of its New Deal for Working People, which aims to enhance worker rights and protections.

Tackling retail crime

Retail crime is another area where Labour has pledged action.

Dickinson welcomed the promise to create a specific offence for assaulting a retail worker, aimed at protecting employees from threats and violence.

She also supported Labour’s commitment to tackling shoplifting, which cost UK retailers £1.8bn ($2.29bn) in 2023-24.

In short, the BRC views many of Labour’s proposed policies as beneficial for the domestic retail industry.

It is hopeful that, if elected, Labour will continue to engage with businesses to refine and implement these policies effectively.