Are You Suffering from Rising Business Rates in Your Salon?
Beauty and hair business expert Hellen Ward shares her thoughts on why Ireland’s high streets are thriving while leading UK retailers are suffering from rising business rates.
Taxi drivers are my go-to for the most accurate soundbite on the economy. I regularly teach my business workshops in Dublin and on a recent trip, I did my usual recce on the state of the Irish economy when I got in the cab at the airport.
Ireland is currently enjoying another boom period, particularly in Dublin. Ireland, according to my cab driver, is the fastest growing economy in Europe. However, he was quite cynical, saying the last time that applied was before the economic crash in 2008.
He didn’t need to substantiate his claim as driving through the beautiful, vibrant city it was full of buzzing coffee shops, independent bakeries, quirky bars, fantastic boutiques and restaurants. I hardly saw a multi- national burger place, a conglomerate coffee chain or the normal sea of multiple retailers that has made our British high streets so cooker-cutter and samey.
But something else struck me – there were no empty shops, empty units or the streets full of charity and phone shops that we’ve become used to in the UK. The Irish economy suffered badly in 2008. Landlords endured their empty units. They learned not to be greedy and to appreciate that a thriving local economy is critical to keeping their shops tenanted.
Tackling rising business rates
It is better to be occupied than not, they’ve realised. The less populated our high streets become, the less likely they will be in finding a tenant, and the only people who will be able to afford to rent shops will be the faceless, corporate big-players who tend to have a habit of being creative with their off-shore accounting and resulting corporation tax liabilities to stay profitable.
I remember when London was like that, particularly Chelsea’s King’s Road. When I arrived aged 20, it was rich in culture and heritage – from hip boutiques frequented by the Beatles (Granny Takes a Trip) to cowboy boot shop R-Soles. It was an eclectic mix of war veterans (Chelsea Pensioners) and the punks that resided outside Vivienne Westwood’s cult World’s End shop Sex, where the Sex Pistols met and punk began. Walk down the King’s Road today and it’s indistinguishable from any other British high street.
Where are all of the independents? Quite simply they cannot afford the business rates. Squeezed by higher costs (they can’t siphon off their tax liabilities) and rateable values that have (in our case) doubled, they just can’t make a profit. Cult artists shop Green & Stone is the last independent retailer to chuck the towel in, something that has devastated the Chelsea locals and garnered much media attention.
The Chancellor needs to act fast in this Autumn’s budget, which and respond to the call from the Federation of Small Businesses to tackle rising business rates immediately. As a sector full of small and medium-sized enterprises, we will be devastated and destroyed if he fails to act and that ripple effect for our industry does not bode well for any of our futures.”
Hellen Ward is co-founder of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa and brands. She is beauty ambassador for the NBF and lectures and educates both in the UK and internationally. Go to hellenward.com for more information.