The owner of a small independent boutique is reeling from the shock news that she is paying higher rates of property tax than Harrods.
Sophie Hartley of Sophie Likes boutique on Beulah Street in Harrogate said she was horrified when she discovered her business rates would be charged in a higher way than the prestigious London department store.
Sophie said she was worried the town would lose its “magic and charm” if small independent businesses were not supported by the authorities.
She said: “I was shocked to hear that my business rates are more per square foot than Harrods.
“The high street is facing a challenging time and local independent businesses need support from the councils in order to survive and thrive.
“It seems as if they are trying to outprice the small businesses so they can longer exist.”
Offering a range of lifestyle gifts both handmade and sourced, including jewellery, the quirky and innovative Sophie Likes has found itself being seen by millions of readers in a major feature on the Money Mail section of the Daily Mail.
Although Sophie’s rates are about to fall a little under the new system, the shop’s owner would argue they scarcely add up to any sort of fairness.
She said: “Although my rates have decreased since last year they are still very high and are one of our largest annual outgoings.
“If something doesn’t change then Harrogate’s small businesses will be forced to shut and large retailers will move in and the magic and charm that makes Harrogate a popular place to visit and shop will change.”
After a storm of criticism, the Government did announce temporary relief for small businesses.
But the disappointing news for Sophie and for many other small shops is that the rental value of Sophie Likes is too high to qualify for the cap on rates hikes of £600 a year announced in the recent Budget.
Sophie employs two staff. 2017 rate: £495 per sq m.
Harrods employs 12,000. 2017 rate: £243.50 per sq m.
Business rates are calculated on a property’s annual rental value, rather than the firm’s size, turnover or profits. Harrods’ bill is lower because few companies would be willing to rent such a vast space in central London, decreasing the rental value per sq m.