Page last updated at 08:42 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 09:42 UK

Retail group in government plea

Closing down sale at furniture shop in York
Clothes and furniture shops are suffering the most from the slowdown

UK retailers are pressing the government to help them weather the tough economic climate.

With the UK economy slowing, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) believes now is the time for the government to intervene.

In a letter, it urged the chancellor to reinstate business tax relief on empty properties in his 2009 Budget.

It also asked for other measures to revive spending, including zero tax for environmentally friendly goods.

Official figures released on Thursday showed a surprise rise in retail sales during July.

The Office for National Statistics said sales rose by 0.8% last month, despite expectations of a fall. Sales were up 2.1% on a year ago, the lowest annual increase since February 2006.

Government action

Jane Milne, BRC business environment director, told the BBC: "We've seen growth slow over the last year and in terms of like-for-like sales growth is now in negative territory.

"Consumer confidence is going in the same direction and the only things up are unemployment, number of claimants and repossessions," she added.

With one in nine people employed in the retail sector, she urged the government to intervene to prevent the economy slipping from a slowdown into a full-blown recession.

The BRC believe that consumers could be encouraged back to the shops if they believed that conditions were not going to get worse.

As part of the rescue plan, the BRC would like to see business rate relief on empty properties reinstated after it was scrapped in April this year.

This would relieve some of the financial burden on retailers forced to exit properties before their lease expires.

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