1 in 6 high street properties in NI are now vacant…

As a new report reveals that 1 in 6 retail properties in NI are now vacant the Irish News has an interesting story on the closure of the SuperValu store in Banbridge.

The Supervalu store – which originally opened as Wellworth’s in 1963 – had been owned and run by Frank McPolin (50) and employed nearly 80 full- and part-time staff.

The building also houses a separately-run discount store and also the town’s main Post Office.

Independent retail body NIIRTA blamed the decision to allow Tesco to open a £38 million 65,000 sq ft out-of-town superstore at Bridgewater Park in 2014 – combined with a 30 per cent increase in the store’s rates bill – for the fall of Supervalu.

I don’t have the full facts on the financial position of the store but I do know that most businesses would struggle to cope with a 30% increase in rates. Combine that with a massive competitor with bottomless pockets opening up on your doorstep  and they did not stand a chance.

Never mind corporation tax, immediate action to reform the grossly unfair rates system is the only way to stop our high streets turning into desolate ghost towns of charity shops and money lenders.

In my view business rates should be scrapped. Businesses should only be taxed on their profits, it is the only fair system. Put 2% on the Corporation Tax rate to cover rates and give this to the Assembly and Councils.

Low rates (or no rates) combined with flexible rents would revamp our high streets. It would allow small traders to take a chance on a business without burdening them with a mountain of debt.

People want real shops, not fake shops.