M&S boss calls to fix “broken” business rates system

5th March 2024 | Jack Oliver

The chief executive of Marks & Spencer has called on the Chancellor to fix the “broken” business rates system, ahead of Wednesday’s Spring Budget.

Speaking on LinkedIn, Stuart Machin said that government policy makes being an employer and running stores difficult, particularly in a difficult economic environment. “It’s like running up a downwards escalator with a rucksack on your back”, he wrote.

Machin said that business rates are the reason behind tight profit margins within the retail sector:

“We’re all proud to pay our way and support the country and the communities we serve. But the balance is wrong and is stymying growth”, he said, adding that the decision to increase the business rates multiplier by nearly 7 percent from April is “economically illiterate”.

Machin called on “decisive action” to reduce the multiplier back to its original level or – at the very least – an adjustment to the current inflationary uplift.

The M&S boss also joined a host of figures within the retail sector calling for a reinstatement of tax-free shopping for tourists. He said the decision to introduce the ‘tourist tax’ is costing the UK £10.7bn in GDP a year, with the impact felt beyond the retail sector.

“It’s keenly felt in our capital, London“, said Machin, “everyone knows the sad plight of Oxford Street – once the UK’s premier shopping destination – and we are continuing our fight to invest in a new store at Marble Arch, following last week’s successful Court judgement. We must do everything we can to restore the street to its former glory and get that lost footfall back.”

Machin is referring to M&S’s high court victory, having challenged a decision to block the retailer’s plans to tear down its Oxford Street flagship.

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver his Spring Budget speech to MPs on Wednesday afternoon.


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