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

TO BE PUBLISHED February 2020

This conference is bringing together stakeholders with policymakers to discuss the future of UK retail and the high street.

Delegates will assess a wave of policy initiatives that have been put forward by the new government.

Areas for discussion include the implementation and potential impact of the:

  • reduction of 50% in business rates for small retailers including restaurants, pubs and cinemas, and
  • recently announced funding and expert support for high streets, and the naming of 14 of the 20 pilot areas in England to receive tailored support from the High Street Task Force.

Attendees will also consider 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 at the conference include:

  • Options for further policy affecting costs and future funding for high streets;
  • Stakeholder collaboration, relationships between landlords and retailers, and trends in rent negotiation;
  • Innovative approaches to high street regeneration; and
  • Policy to support competition between high street and online retail.


We are pleased to be able to include keynote contributions from:

  • 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; Richard McGuckin, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council; Mark Pilkington, formerly of Gossard; Simon Quin, High Street Task Force; Mark Robinson, Revo; George Turner, Tax Watch; Michael Weedon, Federation of Small Businesses and Melanie Williams, DWF Law.

Chaired by: Damien Moore MP.

Engagement with policy officials at this conference

This Westminster Business Forum conference has attracted particularly strong interest from policymakers. It will be an opportunity for stakeholders to engage with officials who have reserved places representing: BEIS; Cabinet Office; Competition and Markets Authority; MHCLG; Defra; DfT; DIT; The Scottish Government and Valuation Office Agency.

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; and
  • High street and online retail at a time of rising costs and political uncertainty - options for digital services taxation and business rates relief.

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Business Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates