The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Call for new tax on online firms rejected


Footfall in Scottish shops has dropped – because people have been packing their beach bags and heading to the Highland and northeast coast.

Despite a record-breaking growth in sales in July, there was a decrease in the number of shoppers, down 1.3% from a year ago and less than the 1.2% rise recorded in June 2013.

The figures, released by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), are below the average for the UK as a whole, where shopper numbersros­eby0.8% compared with last year.

SRC director Fiona Moriarty said a change in trends – with shoppers lapping up the warm weather – can explain the decline.

“A slight fall in Scottish shopper numbers doesn’t initially chime with the record-breaking July sales Balfour Beatty, which specialise­s in large infrastruc­ture projects, has been hit hard by the mining slowdown in Australia and weakness in Europe.

However, there have been signs of an upturn in the United States while the group’s order book is growing – up 3% to £13.9billion. The Sunday Telegraph says shares are a buy at 245.7p.

Eden Research has developed a technology that kills bugs, helps wounds to heal and even makes tastes and smells last longer.

The shares are 10.75p each but should rise over the next few years.

Times have been tough to date but the Oxfordbase­d group’s hard work is now beginning to pay off, according to the Mail on Sunday. Buy. growth we saw last week,” she said.

“However, a lot of the products that sold well were summer foods, fashion and outdoor living items: seasonal items for which a lot of us plan shopping trips rather than buying on a whim.

“Equally, lots of summer spending took place in the Highlands and Islands and coastal areas rather than town centres.”

The UK figure shows a 2.3% rise in the number of high street shoppers and an equal decline at shopping centres, while there was a 0.9% increase in outof-town shoppers.

Scotland has recorded the third-biggest drop in footfall across the UK regions, behind the East Midlands (-2.8%) and EastEnglan­d (- 2.3%), for July compared with the same month last year.

However, for the quarter from May to July 2013, the number of shoppers in Scotland is up by 1%, the second-highest figure for that period after Greater London with a 3.2% increase.

There has also been a slight increase in the number of vacant retail units in Scotland from 10% in April to 10.1% in July.

This figure is better than the UK as a whole which has an 11.1% vacancy rate.

MsMoriarty added: “The Scottish vacancy rate is broadly in linewithth­e previous quarter and below theUKavera­ge, but the fact that over one in ten town centre units is standing empty remains a real cause for concern.

“July rounded off a strong quarter for sales growth, strengthen­ing the The Treasury has rejected the retail industry’s call for an online sales tax.

Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips led calls for a levy on internet traders whom he felt were getting a competitiv­e advantage. He said he wanted to level the playing field for stores under pressure from rising business rates.

But in a letter to the bosses of six online retailers, David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the government­hadnoplans to single them out.

“The government recognises that online businesses contribute to growth in the UK and supports continuing success in the sector,” he said.

“Many online businesses operate across interna- tional borders and it is therefore important to have internatio­nal agreement on the principles of how multinatio­nal businesses, including online, are taxed.

“However, we favour an approach which aims to ensure common principles apply to all businesses whether operating online, from physical premises or with a combinatio­n.

“For this reason, we do not favour a specific tax targeted at the online business sector, although we aim to ensure that tax principles are developed which can be applied consistent­ly across the economy.”

He added: “This area is extremely complex; with large parts of the economy moving towards having some form of digital presence.” sense of cautious optimism, but if the Scottish Government wants to sup- Retail guru Mary Portas has said the UK Government needs to introduce clear policies and plans to save British high streets, describing them as the “heartbeats” of each community.

Portas, appointed by David Cameron to help breathe life into struggling town centres, claimed more “joined-up thinking” is needed and suggested that in the future, high streets could see a move away from retail.

She also criticised communitie­s and local government minister Eric Pickles over the building of an 82,000 square foot supermarke­t on the seafront at Margate, one of the Portas Pilot towns chosen to be awarded a share of the government’s innovation fund.

“We need some clear policies or planning. We port long-lasting recovery it should reduce the cost of business in town centres.” cannot have a high street first policy, with the government­saying “yes, webelieve in it“and then have the secretary of state signing off out of town retail. That doesn’t work,” she said.

“I think we need some very clear policies on how we develop tomorrow’s new businesses. If you look at any business or any future growth one has to invest in the new, and at the moment the new can’t come on the high street because the cost of rates.” Scotland’s job market is on the up – and Aberdeen is leading the way, according to a major UK bank.

The latest Bank of Scotland Report on Jobs revealed the sharpest rise in permanent staff appointmen­ts in the survey’s tenand-a-half year history.

The number of permanent job vacancies “grew strongly” in July, with recruitmen­t agencies also reporting an increase in demand f or t emporary workers. Meanwhile, permanents­alaries rose for the fifth month in a row.

Aberdeen- based recruiters recorded the strongest increases in both permanent and temporary staff placements.

Overall, the bank’s labour market barometer – which aims to provide a snapshot of conditions in the jobs market – reached its highest level since July 2007.

The research was released at the same time as another survey provided good news for the economy.

The business trends report from accountant­s and business advisers BDOLLP showed levels of optimism had risen for the sixth month in a row, with this in turn feeding into businesses’ employment intentions.

Donald MacRae, chief economist at the Bank of Scotland, said the results from their latest jobs report “suggest rising business confidence is translatin­g into a continuati­on of the recovery in the Scottish economy this summer”.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Bank of Scotland report on jobs continues what has been a positive trend in employment and encouragin­g proof of progress on Scotland’s economy. ”

 ??  ?? CATCHING RAYS: Would-be shoppers desert the shops and head for the beach
CATCHING RAYS: Would-be shoppers desert the shops and head for the beach
 ??  ?? Online businesses like Amazon “contribute to growth”
Online businesses like Amazon “contribute to growth”
 ??  ?? Mary Portas
Mary Portas

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