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Gloucestershire Business News

'Antiquated' rates could force closures warn Shoe Zone

Shoe Zone said it could be forced to close 90 shops in the next 18 months if business rates are reintroduced in April.

The shoe retailer, which has outlets in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Tewkesbury, said 45 branches would shut before the rates - which were suspended in April - are reintroduced in April 2021.

And chief executive Anthony Smith warned 45 more would follow suit in the next 12 months.

He said: "The suspension of business rates in April 2020 was a significant benefit for our business in the last financial year and was in line with the Government's desire to save the high street.

"The Government has announced the reintroduction of the antiquated business rates system in April 2021 and, to make matters worse, has delayed the revaluation.

"Never has the rating system been more unfair."

He continued: "The latest revaluation delay will be even more costly as rents during the period have fallen significantly further and consequently rateable values should have fallen broadly in line with rents.

"This is unsustainable for most high street retailers and closures will continue unabated until the Government makes substantial changes."

Shoe Zone, which operates 460 shops, said revenue fell by 24 per cent to £122.6million for the year to October with closures during lockdown leading to a loss before tax of £10-12million.

Sales have been down around 20 per cent on 2019 since shops reopened in June but online sales roughly doubled.

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