Support high street retailers,’ urges Baumatic boss

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The managing director designate of appliance specialist, Baumatic, has urged the Government to bolster its support for high street retailers in an interview given  exclusively to kbbreview in April, and published in this months kbbreview trade magazine.

Baumatic’s Owain Harrison who is the newly promoted managing director designate, has blamed the government’s lack of effective initiatives for the death of the UK’s high street. He suggested that rather than the internet killing the high street, the biggest problem retailers face is restricted access to their stores. He claimed that the UK high street is not an easy place to shop and urged the Government to improve consumer access.

“I don’t think the appliance industry itself is doing anything wrong, in fact, overall I think we support independents very well,” he said. “The Government, however, could do more to protect the high street.”

While Harrison acknowledged that initiatives, such as last year’s Government-funded report from Mary Portas, had been put in motion to save the high street he criticised the Government for not doing enough to protect retailers and urged it to do more to drive footfall into high street showrooms.

“The Government does appear to be finally stepping up to help independents, with initiatives like the Mary Portas report. I’m not quite sure how much value such initiatives have added but it is a step in the right direction.

“The high street has changed beyond recognition, but the high street is always changing beyond recognition, it changes every generation. The challenge now is to get consumers to understand the value of independent retailers and to understand the value of the high street.

Harrison added: “We have some fantastic independents who have answered the problems themselves. They’ve moved off the high street, to out of town stores where they can offer parking. They’re having to drive their own footfall and that’s the significant and expensive challenge for retailers these days. customers into stores and educating retailers about how they can stimulate their own footfall is an area Baumatic is very passionate about.”

Harrison’s comments come just weeks after kbbreview’s sister magazine, ERT, launched its Save The High Street campaign, calling for urgent action from MPs and manufacturers to help stop the demise of any more independent dealers in the UK.

Backed by electrical retailers association Retra abd buying and marketing group Euronics, ERT’s Save The High Street initiative aims to identify the main issues and problems facing independents and to get them recognised and addressed by Government and the industry.

The above was published online and in print by kbbreview, the respected Kitchens, Bathrooms and Bedrooms trade magazine.

 Kitchens Kitchens Editor Jeff Russell on Baumatic’s Owain Harrison kbbreview interview:

I personally had written something similar in the wake of the demise of Jessops and HMV, which in addition to their retail stores they both had strong online presence and yet lost out market share to their rivals and that the internet (although blamed at the time) was not the likely culprit so I agree with Owain Harrison’s comments and I think perhaps whilst more could be done by local councils there is one huge underlying problem.

The Battle between Local and Central Government

Lets look at the argument of VAT, Business Rates, Income Tax, N.I. and Parking fees as what you have is a battle for tax that local government fights out with central government, and the only loser is us the taxpayer, through misguided tax policies.

As in any supply and demand relationship, price is a consideration and when you factor in that central government doesn’t get VAT from Amazon sales (as it doesn’t pay UK VAT), but it did from HMV, then where is the argument to allow more offshore businesses like Amazon, reducing the UK tax revenue and making UK businesses less competitive?

Furthermore, a visit to the high street invariably costs £2-4 per hour to park and with local councils raking in more and more from parking charges, with the worst example Doncaster seeing on-street parking charges soar 125 per cent in three years, what you are seeing is a smaller and smaller customer base get squeezed and squeezed for every last penny, until it dies.

This model is more akin to Robert De Niro in the Goodfellas film where they just want paying their protection money, regardless of how your underlying business is or isnt performing, and if both Local and Central Government want to stop the stagnation (and High Street Rot) then they need to adopt a more supportive and less parasitic role.

Local Councils and Central Government need to wake up and see the big picture as whilst the internet isn’t entirely to blame, it is filling the void from the high street becoming less appealing.

The road we are headed on is less consumers on the high street which means fewer businesses staying afloat, fewer jobs and the big picture is this:

Lower VAT amounts being paid over to HMRC; lower amounts of business rates being collected, less employers National Insurance and Income Tax from fewer people in work and also less money in the UK economy as a whole.

And the worst thing about all of this, is that both Local and Central Government are 100% funded from the private sector, so how about not biting the hand that feeds you!