FT - James Lowman, chairman, ACS

ACS chief executive James Lowman

The Association of convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the government to introduce a targeted package of measures to support local shops.

Ahead of the chancellor’s mini budget on Friday September 23, ACS has called for the following measures to support retailers:

  • introduce a small business energy cap that reflects the support being provided to domestic consumers;
  • extend the 100% business rate relief for the retail sector through to the end of the 2022/23 financial year;
  • freeze the business rates multipliers in 2023;
  • confirm plans for a transitional rate relief scheme to mitigate the impact of rising rates bills as a result of the latest revaluation.

ACS chief executive James Lowman acknowledged government action on energy bills, but added: “Beyond energy support, we are calling on the government to help retailers with the cost of business rates. With the rates revaluation looming, many local shops will be facing a significant hike in their business rates bills, which during this uncertain time is likely to have a damaging impact on future investment plans. If this government is serious about driving growth throughout the economy, incentivising small entrepreneurs to invest in their communities must be front and centre.”

Consumer polling conducted as part of the ACS Community Barometer report shows the majority of consumers (68%) would like to see investment targeted to their immediate local area, compared to 32% who want to see investment in their nearest town centre. Support for existing businesses was also seen as the most popular form of investment by consumers.

ACS also pointed out that retailers were not just facing an energy crisis, but also attempting to prepare for a significant, expensive legislation change. In less than two weeks, new rules will come into force that ban the placement of HFSS (high fat, salt, sugar) products near store entrances, till points and at the end of aisles. It said the rules, which are set to affect thousands of convenience stores, have been frequently criticised as being expensive to implement while being unproven in their effectiveness at reducing obesity.

Lowman continued: “The new prime minister and chancellor have talked about deregulation and cutting the cost of doing business. They could start by halting the incoming restrictions on where shops can display certain products, saving retailers including thousands of small businesses the costs of reconfiguring their stores.”