Northern lights lead the way

Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Sammy Wilson
Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Sammy Wilson

If we are to take something from our northern counterparts, we should possibly consider some form of levy on out-of-town retailers to help preserve our town centres

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17 February 2012

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Our cover story this month details the advances being made by Northern Ireland’s politicians to endeavour to make the business environment in the north fairer through the proposal of a retail levy which will heap 15% onto the rates bill of large retailers in order to lower the rates for small retailers by 20% over a three year period. 

 
A possible issue with the proposed levy is that if these large retailers consider they are being taxed unfairly they will simply pass the extra costs on and those that will suffer will be the suppliers, processors, farmers and of course the consumers. 
 
It was to be expected that Tesco would strongly oppose this move that seeks for the multinational to take a hit in order for its competitors to survive but the fact that so many supermarkets are setting up in out-of-town locations is giving them an unfair advantage over indigenous retailers still trading from town centre sites where consumers are forced to pay for parking and have fewer choices of shops due to so many businesses closing over the past number of years. Rather than placing such a significant levy on large retailers, it might make more sense to offer an incentive to encourage new entrants to the market to take over idle sites in town centres which would in turn reduce the commercial rates for the existing retailers and businesses in the town. 
 
If we were to take something from our northern counterparts, we should possibly consider some form of levy on retailers that take up residence in out-of-town sites, regardless of the size of the business. If it became unattractive to set up business in these places, it would preserve our town centres which should be the main priority. To read Gillian Hamill’s feature on the subject see page 18.
 
While unemployment is still a major issue in this country, the retail and FMCG sector remains a dynamic area to work in with new opportunities arising all the time. This month we have published Excel Recruitment’s Salary Survey which gives an indication of the type of salary and bonuses you might expect in each position. The results may surprise you. Are you over/underpaying your employees or are you being over or under paid? Check page 36 to see if your position is commensurate with your salary. 
 
And finally, we have weathered January, seem to have escaped the big freeze and we still haven’t been thrown out of the euro so maybe there are some green shoots on the horizon this year. The most recent CSO figures show that sales increased by 1.2% in the last quarter of 2011, the first instance of quarterly growth since the first quarter of 2010. Christmas was a strong trading period, which demonstrates that consumers do have money and what is really lacking is consumer confidence. Improving consumer confidence will be the only way to drive sales in the year ahead.
Fionnuala Carolan
Editor
 

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