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Retail is in the UK’s DNA and essential for a healthy economy

12.07.2017

There has been a great deal of focus in recent months on the travails of the retail sector.

Inflation is rising, disposable incomes are being further squeezed by stagnant wage growth, retailers are struggling with a raft of pressures including cost inflation due to the weaker sterling, the National Living Wage and business rates.

Add to this reports over the weekend that retailers top the list for hedge funds shorting stocks in the expectation that they have further to fall, and it would be easy to join the downbeat rhetoric.

But the strong financial results reported by the likes of Ted Baker, SuperGroup and Jigsaw in recent weeks demonstrate that the pressures facing retailers are not insurmountable – and for those that get their customer and brand proposition right, shoppers are still willing to spend.

Dynamic industry

Maintaining the UK’s vibrant and dynamic retail industry is not only important for our nation of shoppers, it’s also vital for the circa three million people the sector employs and the national and local economies that benefit significantly from its activities.

At Hammerson, as part of our sustainability objective to be ‘Net Positive’ by 2030 across the areas of our business where we have the most impact, we have released our latest True Value of Retail Report.

It measures the socio-economic impacts of our retail destinations across our European portfolio.

“It’s clear that retail plays an incredibly important role in driving local economies”

The data demonstrate that Hammerson venues are responsible for creating 40,000 full-time equivalent jobs, producing a combined annual wage bill of £800m.

With local people securing over 80% of retail jobs and nearly half going to people under the age of 25, it’s clear that retail plays an incredibly important role in driving local economies and providing vital training and skills for young people.

According to the report, our retailers invest an estimated £40m annually in training colleagues and management roles account for a fifth of all retail jobs, demonstrating that there are multiple opportunities for young people to develop their skills and enjoy a long and rewarding career in retail.

Generator of income

At a national level, the sector is also an important generator of income for the Treasury, both directly and indirectly.

It’s estimated that the sector accounts for 25% of all business rates (despite representing a gross economic value closer to 6% of the overall economy).

“Hammerson’s portfolio of shopping centres and retail parks alone contribute £250m in business rates”

In the UK, Hammerson’s portfolio of shopping centres and retail parks alone contribute £250m in business rates and deliver more than £300m to the Treasury in employment taxes.

It would be fair to say that in the decade since the 2007/08 financial crisis, the retail sector has faced a number of shocks, but it has learnt to adapt to uncertainty and develop a stronger identity as a result.

As a nation, retailing is part of our DNA. We should be proud of our sector and the very significant social and economic contribution that it makes.