Retail Trade: Coronavirus

Treasury written question – answered on 11th January 2021.

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Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work, Pensions and Inclusion), SNP Deputy Leader

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to the Answer of 15 December 2020 to Question 127486 on Retail Trade: Coronavirus, what plans he has to ensure that online retailers make a significant contribution towards the cost of reopening local high streets across the UK.

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the retail sector. People are shopping online more frequently, however, online sales and click and collect services have provided many high street businesses with an important revenue stream during this period. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that despite many store closures in November, nearly 90% of retail businesses continued to trade in some form through this month. This suggest that despite store closures, many high street businesses were able to continue to trade online.

Online retailers have also provided a vital lifeline for those self-isolating or shielding. ?Goods ordered online have helped people receive the food and supplies they need,?supported home working, education, entertainment, helped friends and family stay connected, and enabled people to have the parts they need to carry out home repairs?.

The Government has always been clear that online retail can continue to operate and is encouraged. These online retail businesses however must meet legal and tax obligations like any other. For example, the threshold for VAT registration is the same whether you sell online or from a physical store.

The Government will continue to support high street businesses as it has done through the the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, and the Future High Streets and Towns Funds. This is in addition to the wide-ranging support the Government has already delivered to these sectors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including extending the CJRS until April; and protecting businesses with cash grants, Government backed finance through loan schemes, a VAT deferral, a 12-month business rates holiday; and a moratorium on evictions to protect commercial tenants.

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