ACS has welcomed the pro-growth initiatives in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which include a two-year deferral scheme for planned business rates increase in April 2012, extension of small business rate relief until April 2013, a £40bn National Loan Guarantee Scheme, and the deferral of the 3ppl increase in fuel duty.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “By deferring part of the business rate increase for two years, the Chancellor has taken a positive step toward encouraging growth for retailers. The extra six months added to the small business rate relief scheme will also help the smallest businesses to invest in the future.

“This is an early breakthrough for the hundreds of retail businesses large and small that called for immediate action. The full increase would have cost convenience stores an estimated £35.7m; more than £20m can now be deferred.

The continuation of small business rate relief will also be significant piece of mind for the smallest businesses in our industry, added Lowman. “This is not the permanent reduction we wanted, and there is a bigger question to answer about how we can prevent such unsustainable increases being imposed in the future. We need a new system for setting business rate increases.”

The ACS also welcomes the National Loan Guarantee Scheme, which is hoped to improve lending to small businesses, although Lowman said: “Until we see banks approving loans we will remain sceptical about the willingness of the banks to provide the credit our members need.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) chief executive John Drummond also welcomed the National Loan Guarantee Scheme. “It is no secret that the retailers which will weather this economic storm are those which are prepared to innovate and invest in their businesses,” he said.

“However, getting access to affordable levels of borrowing to make this happen has become incredibly difficult for most small businesses, dissuading many from making the requisite investment. Today’s announcement from the Chancellor is therefore welcome. The cap of a £50m turnover means that the scheme will benefit the vast majority of SGF members.”