Mike Ashley calls for 20% web tax to save the high street

Mikey Ashley has suggested a 20% internet sales tax in order to save the UK high street. Ashley said retailers who see over 20% of revenue coming from online should pay an online sales tax.

Speaking at a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee meeting today, the Sports Direct boss shared his vision on how to save the UK high street. He said: “It’s very simple why the high street is dying – it’s the internet, the internet is killing the high street.”

Ashley admitted his online tax idea would not go down well with the Sports Direct Group – “that will affect me massively, I’ve already told you I have a £400 million [internet] business” – but he went ahead and suggested a tax on both pureplay and multichannel retailers, which would directly impact his own business.

“It’s not a good fix for the Sports Direct Group, but it’s a fantastic fix for the high street. The high street won’t be there in 2030 unless you do something radical and grab the bull by the horns.”

Ashley’s theory is that retailers will want to avoid paying the tax and would therefore invest more into its store businesses to keep online sales under 20%, which would in turn revitalise the high street.

He suggested that retailers who offer click & collect should get a credit against the tax because it would encourage more shoppers to visit the high street.

While the committee meeting subject was ‘High streets and town centres in 2030’, the committee began by grilling Ashley about the demise of House of Fraser and zero hour contracts.

When his 80 minute session finally got underway, Ashley made a number of suggestions on how to save the high street, including reinvesting savings made on business rates and enforcing councils to offer free parking. He said free parking could be paid for by either the 20% tax or a stamp card which sees customers receiving stamp if they purchase something in high-street store which could equate to two-hours free parking.

“You have to do free parking – I’m not talking about Oxford Street, but the ones which are barren, deserted, closing – some towns still pay for parking which negates the free click & collect because you have to pay for parking fees.”

The retail tycoon added: “I know I sound very socialist – I’m not this crazy capitalist everyone thinks I am.”