Sidmouth's independent businesses keep on 'smiling in the face of adversity'

Chairty shops on Sidmouth street.

Businesses have had to adapt to survive - Credit: Beth Sharp

As the High street awoke on June 15 last year, within a few weeks news leaked out that the Government was considering a new tax for online sales which was ultimately designed to financially encourage people back to the high street, however six months on and the impact of this tax could backfire on those it may have been designed to help!
As many big High Street names imploded last year during the first lockdown, shocking the financial markets with their sudden demise, their lack of ability to move with the times was all too often cited for their downfall, primarily their online presence was considered by the buying public to be just not good enough!
Although news of its sale to a group of investors has reached most press and media by now the failure of Edinburgh Woollen Mill has left a big hole in Fore Street and those like it around the country with at least 125 of the company’s former stores now vacated by the business whose history can be traced back to 1946.   
Smiling in the face of adversity, many of Sidmouth’s small independent businesses adapted staggeringly quickly to take their traditional High Street store to the internet in order to survive and when we all re-opened in glorious sunshine with the summer trade to look forward to, a collective sigh of relief could be heard as tills started to ring again.
So why the concern?
Well, the answer is relatively straightforward... all those difficulties that were faced by companies last year are yet again firmly in our headlights as we patiently sit, three weeks into another lockdown with no news on our parole! Yet here we are with many firms now facing the possibility of another tax levied against them for doing the very thing that enabled them to survive and ultimately file their accounts and pay their tax in the first place!
We can, indeed we must, make the assumption that if a two percent tax for online sales is to be introduced, it will carry with it some caveats which we would hope in their most simplistic form would relate to the turnover of the companies in question. This would naturally provide a price advantage for the high street shops as goods will be sold without the two percent tax, which incidentally would raise around £2bn a year for the treasury. 
Whilst being considered as part of the wider rates review, which in itself may well be scrapped in favour of a new system, surely it must be that the Government had always aimed this at those larger corporations and online giants who had flourished as many took to their keyboards to order throughout the first lockdown. However loosely you use the term ‘common sense’ it must be applied to this situation as it cannot have been designed to hit the smaller independent retailer who in some cases had taken their business online just to be able to afford to eat. 

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