FT - James Lowman, chairman, ACS

ACS chief executive James Lowman

In its submission to the Autumn Budget, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the government to introduce tax reform measures that will help convenience retailers invest in the future of their business, including the extension of 100% business rate relief to all businesses with a rateable value of under £51,000.

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are currently receiving 66% relief until March 2022 as part of the government’s package of Covid-19 support measures. Pre-pandemic, 100% rate relief was only available to businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000. The ACS recommendation would ensure that the majority of the UK’s 47,000 convenience store retailers would pay no business rates.

ACS also recommends the introduction of a ‘business growth accelerator’, similar to that which is already in place for retailers in Scotland. This would delay increases in rates bills for those who invest for two years, allowing time for that investment to pay back instead of giving retailers an additional hit of extra costs up front through increased business rates.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The impact of the pandemic has been uneven across the convenience sector, with many stores, especially those in city centres and near transport hubs, struggling to keep going throughout the restrictions that have been in place over the last 18 months. As we look toward recovery and rebuilding for the future, it’s essential that the Chancellor gives businesses the right tools and certainty to be able to invest in the long term.”

One of the key areas of focus in ACS’ submission is sustainability. ACS is calling for measures to help retailers play a bigger part in moving toward a more sustainable future for both themselves and their customers. Recommendations on sustainability include:

  • providing funding for electric vehicle charging investment infrastructure on petrol forecourts and other on-the-go locations;
  • introducing a strategically mapped set of return points for the incoming Deposit Return Scheme that ensures cost neutrality for retailers and takes into account consumer demand.

Lowman added: “Local shops are committed to a sustainable future, providing zero-waste options for customers, offering EV charging on forecourts and preparing for the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme. This must be supported with targeted funding to encourage as many retailers to get involved as possible.”

Other measures recommended in the Autumn Budget submission include:

  • recognise good quality employment and target regulation at employers using insecure and one-sided staffing models;
  • extending the two-thirds median earnings target for the National Living Wage beyond 2024 accounting for post-pandemic labour market dynamics;
  • extending the Kickstart Scheme into 2022/23 to stimulate innovative entry-level job opportunities and improve productivity.

The 2021 Autumn Budget is due to be delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 28th October.