The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has held a meeting with Ian Pearson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to ask for support for the
33,000 local shops that ACS represents during the current economic downturn.
The meeting took place yesterday, the day after the government announced a package of measures designed to increase small and medium businesses’ access to credit, with the ACS stressing the need for loan support to be as widely available as possible.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “It was extremely useful to meet with the minister today and outline the issues that are really affecting convenience stores along with the measures that could be undertaken that would have a profound impact on shops facing hard times.
“In particular we highlighted the need for action to be taken against the business rates triple whammy that retailers are facing over the next two years. We also highlighted the ongoing issue of annual inflation busting minimum wage increases, which are leading to staff hour reductions as the quickest way to reduce business costs.”
On business rates the ACS is advocating:
• A freeze on the current level of business rates to reflect the economy.
• The 2010 rate revaluation to be delayed until the economy regains stability.
• That the implementation of the Business Rate Supplements Bill should be delayed until economic conditions improve.
Other areas raised by the ACS included the importance of the implementation of an ombudsman to oversee a Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice as recommended by the Competition Commission following its two year investigation into the grocery sector. The importance of retaining town centre first planning policy was also discussed with the ACS advocating a strengthened impact test to deter unwarranted out of town development.
Lowman continued: “Local shops play a vital role at the heart of communities across the country. Independent academic research of consumer needs shows that people want access to a local shop within five minutes walk of their home. To enable retailers to continue to play this central role to people’s access to food and sense of community, retailers must be able to access sufficient credit.”
Pearson said: “I am very pleased to have met with ACS today and hear about the concerns of local shops at this time of economic downturn. The government is committed to assisting small shops and believe that this week’s announcements on loan guarantees will go some way to achieving this.”