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Chancellor to announce high street rates relief

Monday 29 October 2018

Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to loosen the purse strings during this afternoon's Autumn Budget, and announce a much needed £1.5 billion boost for England's high streets.

A welcomed move for small retailers, the financial package will include £900 million in business rates relief, cutting business rate bills by a third for almost half a million small businesses, and a £650 million pot to rejuvenate high streets and their transport links.

The Treasury estimated 496,000 small retailers will benefit from immediate business rates relief, with a Sheffield pub with an estimated rental value of £37,750 likely to save £6,178 on business rates next year, and a Birmingham newsagent saving £1,749 with a rental rate of £14,250.

The £650 million funding injection (aptly named the Future High Streets Fund) is set to be introduced over the next four years and will allow towns and cities to redevelop under-used retail space into homes and offices, providing help to restore High Street properties and put historic buildings back into use.

Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers welcome the measures announced by the Treasury to invest new funding to boost high streets and town centres and facilitate re-invention of many to modern and diverse destinations.” 

NAEA Propertymark member and commercial property specialist, Mike Hughes, commented: “The assistance with business rates the Chancellor is offering will help small business owners with retail shops in the short term but other small businesses that own property continue to struggle against online competition. Business owners must wait to see how this action in the budget will help the market for commercial property.”

But whilst business groups welcomed the plans, Labour have said the rates relief did not go far enough. Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour's shadow business secretary, said that whilst small businesses need support, the retail sector as a whole is struggling, and the chancellor's plan does nothing to address the underlying imbalance between brick-and-mortar retailers and online sellers. Commenting on the expected announcement, she said: “100,000 retail jobs have been lost in the last three years yet not a single M&S, Debenhams or House or Fraser - anchor stores bringing in footfall and benefiting all traders - would have been saved by today's announcement.” 

While the funding is for the whole of the UK, it will be up to the individual nations' parliaments to decide exactly how to use the cash.