Next boss Lord Wolfson: Give struggling retailers a break

Lord Wolfson, CEO of clothing giant Next, has criticised crippling business rates

The boss of clothing giant Next has criticised crippling business rates and urged the Government to give struggling retailers ‘a break’.

Lord Wolfson, who is chief executive of the chain which has 530 stores, blamed the taxation for speeding up the rate of shop closures in the high street.

‘The one thing that I think the Government must do is make rates more responsive to today’s reality,’ Lord Wolfson said.

Towns and cities were falling victim to a ‘process of failure’ that is being ‘accelerated by rates that are stuck at levels that don’t reflect today’s reality’, he claimed.

Lord Wolfson’s comments follow a campaign launched by the Daily Mail earlier this month to save our high streets. 

It calls for a major overhaul of business rates to ensure a level playing field between high street shops and online retailers.

Lord Wolfson said ‘far more frequent revaluations’ of business rates were needed to fairly reflect the value of high street shops.

‘Let the successful shoulder the burden and the unsuccessful, give them a break. It seems incredibly sensible,’ he told ITV News. 

An onslaught from online giants such as Amazon has seen 50,000 jobs slashed so far this year. 

Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld have gone bust, while House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer and Mothercare have closed some stores.

But Lord Wolfson said retailers should not blame online rivals for their woes, adding: ‘Amazon is not making people order from them, the consumer is choosing that and we must respect that choice and actually work as hard as we can to give customers the stock they want in the way they want it.’

It comes as research reveals struggling high street restaurants are to be hit with a £1.5billion rates bill. 

According to delivery firm Deliveroo, more than 41,000 eateries, including Carluccio’s and Prezzo, will hand over the sum within just two years.