Westminster Business Forum

The UK retail sector and the future of the high street - costs and taxation, investment and planning, and policy priorities for the new parliament

Morning, Thursday, 27th February 2020

Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR

This conference will bring stakeholders together to discuss the future of UK retail and the high street.

It takes place with the new government beginning its work with a focus on the issues and the announcement of a reduction of 50% in business rates for small retailers including restaurants, pubs and cinemas.  

We expect discussion on the potential impact, as well as other options for reform in areas such as the apprenticeship levy, and legislation to protect shop workers - as called for in the recent British Retail Consortium report, A Vision for the UK Retail Industry.

Overall, areas for discussion include:

  • Options for policy on costs and future funding, and for stakeholder collaboration;
  • The relationships between landlords and retailers, and trends in rent negotiation;
  • Innovative approaches to high street regeneration; and
  • The high street/online playing field.


  • Kelly Tolhurst MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility;
  • Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium; and
  • Steve Murrells, Chief Executive Officer, The Co-operative Group.

Further speakers include: Emily Berwyn, Meanwhile Foundation; Elizabeth Faulkner, Altrincham Unlimited; Dr Cathy Hart, Loughborough University; Mark Pilkington, formerly of Gossard; Simon Quin, High Street Task Force; Mark Robinson, Revo; Michael Weedon, Federation of Small Businesses and Melanie Williams, DWF Law.

The agenda

  • Key challenges for retailers: responding to rising costs, technology and changing shopping habits;
  • Collaboration needed between councils, businesses and communities to develop places and positioning high streets as community hubs;
  • Attracting business to the high street - the open door pilot, investment in historic buildings, and key issues for landlords;
  • Where next for retail: improving productivity, competitiveness and the impact of Brexit;
  • High street and online retail at a time of rising costs and political uncertainty - options for digital services taxation and business rates relief; and
  • Future policy for supporting local shops and high streets.

Keynote Speaker

Steve Murrells

Chief Executive Officer, The Co-Operative Group and Member, Consumer, Retail and Life Sciences Business Council

Keynote Speakers

Helen Dickinson

Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium

Steve Murrells

Chief Executive Officer, The Co-Operative Group and Member, Consumer, Retail and Life Sciences Business Council

Kelly Tolhurst MP

Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility


Simon Quin

Executive Director, High Street Task Force and Co-Chair, Institute of Place Management

Dr Cathy Hart

Senior Lecturer, Retailing and Operations Management, School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University

Mark Robinson

Property Director and Co-Founder, Ellandi and President, Revo

Emily Berwyn

Executive Director, Meanwhile Space and Trustee, Meanwhile Foundation

Mark Pilkington

MarkPilkington.net and former Chief Executive Officer, Gossard

Michael Weedon

Chair, Retail & High Street Policy Unit, Federation of Small Businesses

Elizabeth Faulkner

Business Development Manager, BID Team, Altrincham Unlimited

Melanie Williams

Partner, DWF Law

Councillor Richard McGuckin

Highways and Transport Leader, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council