The Association of Convenience Stores has set out a series of recommendations to Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the Autumn Statement on December 4 to support convenience store retailers.
On business rates, ACS recommends a 2% cap on annual rates increases to provide businesses with greater certainty in their financial planning, along with root and branch reform of the discretionary rate relief system.
It is also concerned about energy costs and calls for the introduction of a mandatory 12-month limit on backbilling carried out by energy suppliers, an end to automatic rollover contracts, and a robust accreditation system for third party intermediaries to stop mis-selling in the market.
On employment regulations, ACS is recommending a freeze in the 2014 National Minimum Wage rate at its’ current level in addition to continued assessment of the impact of national minimum wage increases on small retailers.
And on alcohol and tobacco, it urges no further duty increases in the Autumn Statement or 2014 Budget, increasing enforcement activity on alcohol duty fraud at a local level, and the penalties for selling alcohol and tobacco illegally brought in line with those for dealing in class C drugs.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The Chancellor must take action to reduce the spiralling costs that are deterring retailers from investing and creating more jobs, and this starts by reforming the business rates system to stop the annual unpredictable rates increases that have put many local shops in jeopardy.
“Our recommendations on the minimum wage, alcohol and tobacco and energy are all designed to give retailers more certainty when planning their finances for the year ahead. Retailers are reaching a crisis point where cost increases or unexpected bills in any aspect of their business will lead to a reduction in staff hours and in extreme cases, the closure of the business altogether.”