Save Our Stores

The People - - NEWS FEATURES -

I STILL re­mem­ber the thrill of my first visit to Rack­hams de­part­ment store in Birm­ing­ham when I was seven. Mum took my brother and me on the train at Christ­mas to visit the toy de­part­ment Santa. But I was mes­merised by the whole place. The ex­otic aroma of per­fumery, the rolls of colour­ful fab­ric in hab­er­dash­ery, the im­pos­si­bly el­e­gant out­fits in ladies’ cloth­ing – ev­ery­thing your heart de­sired all un­der one roof.


they’re strug­gling to com­pete with on­line gi­ants like Ama­zon and ebay who don’t have sky-high busi­ness rates on premises. This week Ama­zon an­nounced 2,500 more jobs in Bri­tain – which is great. But the next day de­part­ment store chain House of Fraser put 6,000 jobs at risk un­der plans to shut 31 of its 59 branches, And one is that for­mer Rack­hams store in Birm­ing­ham. Last year House of Fraser suf­fered losses of £44mil­lion, shop sales slumped by 2.9 per cent and on­line tak­ings fell by 7.5 per cent. It fol­lows the col­lapse of other high street busi­nesses like Toys R Us and Maplin, while Pound­world is fac­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion putting 7, 000 jobs at risk. Deben­hams and John Lewis have also seen prof­its dive. Yet while they strug­gle on, web firms ex­ploit ev­ery rule in the book to min­imise tax bills. Like ebay, which gen­er­ated rev­enues of £980mil­lion in 2016-17 but paid only £1.6mil­lion in tax. We need a level play­ing field. Cut­ting busi­ness rates and park­ing charges, im­prov­ing trans­port links and civic ameni­ties could help our high streets shine again. And if on­line busi­nesses were forced to pay their fair share it might help some of our pre­cious em­po­ri­ums sur­vive. But right now they are like the lift at Grace Brothers once it’s got to car­pets, travel goods and soft fur­nish­ings on the Sec­ond Floor. Go­ing down...

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