NI supermarket levy 'disappointing' say retailers

A levy for large retailers, which has passed the final stages in the Northern Ireland Assembly to become law, has attracted the criticism of retail bodies, who say it is a blow to Northern Ireland’s chances of attracting the investment it needs from global companies to secure its future economic prosperity.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) said it was disappointing that the Assembly had pressed ahead with the ‘flawed’ Rates (Amendment) Bill, saying that collaborative working between the business community and the Assembly, which supported all retailers, should be the priority.  

NIRC director Jane Bevis said: “While we support the improvements made in an effort to ensure the funds raised reach the most deserving businesses, it remains a levy which unfairly discriminates against one part of one sector. Major retailers with the potential to grow, invest and create jobs are being penalised for being successful. Future investment decisions could hinge on the extra costs imposed by this tax.

“However, we welcome the announcement from Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland that he wants to focus on town centre regeneration. Major retailers play a vital part in successful town centres, as do independent retailers who can give towns individuality and character. Retailers small and large need each other to thrive, but all retailers need town centres that are proactively managed, safe, attractive and with good transport and parking. We look forward to working with Minister McCausland on this vital endeavour for our communities.”

When the plans for the levy were first mooted by the Assembly, the NIRC criticised the move and called instead for a framework of business and local authority partnerships to fund initiatives which would rejuvenate high streets. It said that the new law would harm growth and job creation, without actually guaranteeing that money would reach small retailers. It suggested creating a series of Business Improvement Districts (BID) to work on targeted, specific projects in town centres, which would directly benefit local communities and trade.

>Retailers propose alternative to North Ireland supermarket levy