Frasers Group, the parent company of retailer GAME, considers the UK government’s COVID-19 relief package useless, stating that it was disappointed by the business rates relief package that had been proposed, which includes a £2 million cap on the amount corporations can claim from July 2021 to March 2022.
The statement adds that it “makes it a near worthless support package for large retailers,” noting that while the entire retail industry “has repeatedly asked for structural reform of business rates, none has been forthcoming. Frasers Group and many retailers would have expected suitable relief until structural reform is implemented.”
Frasers Group believes the cap would make it “nearly impossible to take on ex-Debenhams sites with the inherent jobs created,” in reference to the company’s proposed plan to take over recently shuttered Debenhams stores. The Debenhams brand was acquired by fashion firm Boohoo in January, which left many of the chain’s 118 remaining store empty. The company has also warned that the insufficient measures could lead to other shop closures.
The company said it would need to “review [its] entire portfolio” to determine which stores may be unviable given the proposed business rates. The group considers that although retailers should pay their fair share, the business rates model is unnecesraily complicated and outdated.
Retail property expert Jonathan De Mello agreed with Fraser Group’s assessment, telling the BBC that the rates relief cap would “place a significant rates burden on retailers with more than just a handful of stores.” He added that retailers with stores in large shopping centers and downtown areas would be negatively impacted by the cap since they often pay more than £2m rates for a single store.
Frasers Group, which is owned by Mike Ashley, includes GAME, Sports Direct, and House of Fraser, among others. GAME was acquired by the company in June 2019 for £52 million. Founded by Bev Ripley and Terry Norris as Rhino Group in 1992, the gaming retailer has more than 300 stores in the UK, which sell video games, consoles, accessories and the latest pre-order games, as well as an online storefront.
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