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Editor’s news round-up

I’m sure that most retailers will agree with Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, who has hit out at Barclays’ plans to close a further 54 branches this year. He said that at a time of unprecedented uncertainty “the last thing small businesses need is the loss of in-person bank branch support”. Mike added that alternative Post Office services are “simply not up to scratch”, with cash and cheque clearing facilities limited and currency exchange services rarely offered. “Our members routinely deal with customers that want to pay in cash. Once a town loses a bank branch it hurts footfall, particularly in tourist hotspots, and means business owners have to spend time travelling out of town to use banking services.”

Local Data Company research shows that of the 160 stores across Great Britain once owned by BHS, 82% lie empty. Thirty-five stores have deals or planning permission pending.

More than 13,000 low-paid workers will be handed a combined total of £2 million in back pay after a Government review identified 233 companies – including Argos – that failed to pay the minimum wage. They have been fined a combined total of £1.9 million.

The Office for National Statistics revealed that although sales volumes in food stores rose 1.5% in July, the only other retailers that saw an increase were those selling household goods, which were up 0.9%. Overall, sales volumes rose 0.3%.

Meanwhile, a global Nielsen survey showed that the UK had gone from being the second most confident country in Europe to ninth place, with an accompanying fall in household spending. However, the IHS Markit Household Finance Index said that UK household expectations for future finances rose in August to a four-month high, while YouGov/Cebr indicated that consumer morale improved slightly last month.

“Consumer spending power is still being squeezed – not great news for retailers who are facing challenges on many fronts,” the British Retail Consortium has observed. The BRC said that although nominal wage growth had picked up to 2.1% after several months of slowing, the effect of inflation over this period of 2.6% left real wages in negative territory – down 0.5% on last year.

Around four in five businesses have seen their costs increase this year through changes in employment legislation, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.

Some 233,550 challenges across England and Wales to the 2010 property valuation are still outstanding, according to the Valuations Office Agency which said it had received 1.1 million business rate appeals.

Alan Monahan