The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the Chancellor to use his summer statement to help local shops invest in their businesses in the future.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to give the statement tomorrow, and although it is not intended to be a major fiscal event, the ACS believes there are still measures that the government can introduce now that would support convenience stores in the coming months.
Measures recommended by ACS include: Extend the 100% business rates discount beyond 2020/21 and taper the reintroduction of rates bills; extend the National Living Wage target of two thirds of median earnings beyond 2024; reduce employer national insurance contributions; and expand the Retail Grant Fund threshold beyond £51,000 rateable value.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said petrol forecourts and convenience stores in high street and city centre locations are some of the most likely to have suffered a drop in sales during the lockdown, while also being the most likely store types to have a rateable value of more than £51,000 – meaning that they are not eligible for the Retail Grant Fund.
He said: “The support provided to thousands of local shops by the government throughout the pandemic has ensured that they can continue trading, keep colleagues employed, and focus on serving customers safely. As we move into the next phase of recovery, the Chancellor has an opportunity to help local shops and other small businesses with additional certainty about their longer term costs, which in turn will stimulate investment and benefit communities.”
In its submission to the Treasury ahead of the statement on Wednesday, ACS has welcomed the potential removal of VAT on some products, but has called on the Chancellor to provide clarity on which food and drink products could have a zero VAT rate when sold in convenience stores. With a merging of food service and convenience in recent years, the government must be clear on which products and scenarios the zero rate applies.
“Any changes to VAT, whether an overall cut in the rate of VAT or specific changes to which categories and products are eligible for a zero rate of VAT, must be communicated clearly to businesses and be introduced with a reasonable notice period to mitigate the operational challenges associated with implementing such a change,” stressed Lowman.
Figures from the 2019 Local Shop Report show that almost one in four convenience stores have some form of hot food counter or cabinet (23%) with around one in six (15%) currently providing either indoor or outdoor seating for customers.