There’s a campaign been started to stop pop up shops paying business rates. After some thought, I have chosen not to give this my support. For one thing, I think it’s a PR stunt, not a considered attempt to steer government policy. But in any case…
A pop up shop may be a real enterprise, in which case it should pay, the same as any other local shop.
It may be testing a new business, in which case it should pay – so it provides real evidence for a future shop.
Or it’s a charity, community or social project, in which case it should pay or use the business rate relief that already exists.
The case for the creative reuse of empty shops has been made, so far, on the basis that those of us who are fighting are serious about the High Street. We’ve argued that our approach is as business-like as the local shops we’re mixing with. We’ve made the case that we’re doing this to support local shops. That we’re complimentary, not competition. Special rules for pop up shops take us away from those arguments.
Such changes could also create a loophole which other businesses will exploit; how long, if the financial incentive was good enough, before the big multiples took advantage – a Tesco Metro pop up shop, maybe?
There is a wider issue about the fairness of business rates, and clarification of how they’re applied locally. In fact in Pop Up People, based on work with people tackling the problem of empty shops around the country, we proposed a three month period free of business rates for any new business moving into empty shops. It would benefit shops opening up – and any occupants that were only around for a short time. That’s considered, reasonable and a fair change that brings benefit to everybody working on the High Street.