30, St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LE
Tel. (01865) 513243 Fax (01865) 513243 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy,
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy,
1 Victoria Street,
28th June, 2018
Dear Mr Clark,
We are an organisation that does its best to represent business interests in Oxford.
As such, we have representatives from the professions, including, architects, chartered accountants and chartered surveyors, many from the retail, restaurant and hotels sectors and some from the service and communications sectors.
For many years, particularly leading up to and since the 2008 recession, local trading outlets have struggled with patchy years of turnover.
Since the opening of a much larger Westgate Shopping Centre, footfall within Oxford has increased but not the turnover of many retailers. The Westgate has been relatively successful in its first eight months but still has many units to fill and one restaurant has closed after 6 months.
Although the weaker pound has seen an increase in the number of overseas visitors, this has only helped to compensate for the loss of regular shoppers and UK visitors.
The national picture of retail in the last few weeks has been rather bleak and, as many commentators have said, we appear to be at a tipping point, with a very high risk of empty city and town centres. This could devastate the appearance of historic centres like Oxford.
As you will be more than aware, there are many factors affecting trading outlets. These include rates, rents, internet shopping, out of town centres, loss of footfall because of re-orientation of town and city centres and through development and the need to adapt to the consumers’ changing shopping trends.
However, most of the businesses, with whom we communicate, believe that they are now at a huge disadvantage compared to online retailers, who they see as the main threat to their existence.
We are aware that the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee is carrying out “The High Streets and Town Centres in 2030” Inquiry but we feel that much more action is required to remedy the current situation.
We believe that business rates are one of the most important factors and that there needs to be a fairer balance between the online retailer and those, particularly independents, with a city or town centre presence. We ask that you seek an urgent review into business rates before it is too late.
ROX – backing oxford business