Convenience retailers have been delaying and scaling back on investments in their stores over the last year.
Figures from the Association of Convenience Stores’ Investment Tracker show that in the 12 months to November 2019, the UK’s 46,000 local shops have invested £558m in their businesses, down from £737m in the previous year – a year-on-year decline of 24%.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Continuing uncertainty over Brexit and the General Election has led to some convenience retailers holding back on investment plans, which is why we’re seeing a year-on-year decrease in investment levels overall.
“However, local shops have still invested over half a billion pounds in the last year to improve their businesses, increase the range of services on offer and expand product ranges to keep up with consumer demand. Convenience stores remain huge contributors to both the local and national economy.”
For independent retailers, the vast majority of investment is being self-funded, with 68% using their own reserves to pay for improvements and repairs. Just 4% of retailers are getting funding from banks for their investment plans.
The most common form of investment across the sector is refrigeration, with retailers looking to make their equipment more efficient as well as buying new fridges to expand their range of products, especially in areas like food to go.
Ahead of the General Election, ACS has called on all major parties to ensure that investment is incentivised through the business rates system as part of a package of wider reforms.
Lowman continued: “The next Government must take swift action to address the imbalances in the business rates system. We must ensure that convenience retailers and other small businesses are given the right conditions to be able to invest, instead of being put off by the threat of hikes to their rates bills.”