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B&Q warns Executive over 'unfair' retail levy in Northern Ireland

A FTSE 100 company employing over 1,000 people here has warned its investment in Northern Ireland will be curtailed if a proposed levy on large retailers goes ahead.

In a letter to the Executive this morning, B&Q said the large retailer levy would unfairly penalise it and other non-food retailers which don't have as high turnover of goods as supermarkets.

"Whilst B&Q stores may be comparable in size to those occupied by the big supermarkets, the business models of grocery and non- grocery retailers are very different," it said in a statement.

"B&Q stores operate out of large stores purely because of the type and size of product sold in its stores; supermarkets on the other hand occupy large outlets because of the very high turnover of product sold through its stores every day.

"The sales and profit generated therefore differ significantly meaning that the levy would have a higher proportionate impact on non-food grocery retailers such as B&Q than on the major supermarkets."

The large retailer levy has been championed by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson in an effort to raise more money to support small businesses. It came under fire from business group the CBI last week which said the tax would make retail investment in Northern Ireland less attractive than anywhere else in the UK.

B&Q, which is owned by parent company Kingfisher, believes following the lead of the Scottish Executive would be more prudent and would address the Department of Finance and Personnel's need to raise additional revenue and support small business.

"The Scottish Executive's Budget proposal for 2012-13 currently contains a proposal for a Large Retail Levy," it said. "This measure, however, is only targeted at large retailers which sell both alcohol and tobacco.

"This will have two effects: it targets only those companies able to pay and places the burden on companies selling products detrimental to public health. The same levy could be appropriate in Northern Ireland. "

Martyn Phillips, CEO of B&Q UK and Ireland, said it was committed to Northern Ireland but might have to rethink its future plans for the region if the levy goes ahead.

B&Q has nine stores in Northern Ireland and employs over 1,000 people in the region.

Source : David Elliott – Belfast Telegraph  

17 October 2011
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