Rishi Sunak urged to adopt Shop Out To Help Out scheme to save high streets | UK | News

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Leading retail figures including Mary Portas have backed the proposed initiative, which would echo last year’s Eat Out To Help Out for the hospitality sector. Under the scheme, put forward by campaign group Save The Streets, shoppers would get 50 percent off their first purchase in smaller, independent stores, capped at £10, from Monday to Wednesday for a month. It would be limited to independent retailers with fewer than 10 employees, with the Government reimbursing the small businesses.

This could be run in May or June to stimulate trade in shops that have been closed for 80 per cent of the past year, while boosting the nation’s economic recovery this summer.

Retail entrepreneur Ross Bailey, the organiser of the Save The Street campaign, said the £1.8billion in rates relief returned to the Treasury by supermarket chains could be used to fund Shop Out To Help Out.

He said independent retailers have largely been forgotten by the Government when compared to the funding given to the travel and technology industries.

The founder of Appear Here, a marketplace for short-term retail rentals, said: “We would be kidding ourselves to think that everything will be fine for independent retailers once they reopen on April 12.

“The damage has been done over the last 12 months, now it is the Government’s responsibility to support these businesses and ensure they are given a fighting chance.

“The Government needs to show that all businesses matter, not just big businesses.”

He added that Eat Out To Help Out cost the Treasury about half-a-billion pounds and returned roughly the same to its coffers.

So using the £1.8billion of returned rates relief could provide a huge boost to the UK economy.

Ms Portas, a retail guru and former government adviser, said: “Covid-19 has accelerated a trend that has been in play for the past decade – people don’t want to live in bland towns with homogenised high streets.

“As we rebuild our communities across the UK, independent retailers will be key for the recovery.

“However, the lack of support over the last 12 months has put thousands of businesses on the brink.

“This scheme is vital not just for the survival of these brilliant and diverse businesses, but also for the rebuilding of society.”

Charlotte Tilbury, founder of the British Fashion Council and her eponymous beauty brand, added: “Without this scheme, thousands of independent retailers won’t be around to help reconnect communities. So much trade has been lost to online shopping, we need this incentive to drive people back into stores and remind them of the unique magic of independents.”

Ross Bailey added the timing of the scheme will be key to give independent retailers “optimism and hope” when high streets reopen.

They will have to start paying rents again in June, having had no cashflow this year and for most of 2020.

He said: “Shop Out To Help Out does not have to start on April 12 but it should be in that quarter.

“The Government has extended the property moratorium until June, so businesses that have been shut for 80 percent of the last year at the moment are going to be told to pay their rent by June or face being kicked out, which is madness.

“If there is not something by then to stimulate being able to pay their rents, we are going to see a massive hollowing out of our streets, and a waste of all the money and support that has gone into things like furlough if people end up unemployed.

Meanwhile, Wagamama announced today it will open 72 of its restaurants for outdoor dining on April 12, with no booking required.

The remainder of its 149 restaurants will open after May 17 when indoor dining is allowed.

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