New research has revealed that seven out of ten shoppers (70%) believe that neighbourhood retailers and newsagents should be offered some degree of protection or special treatment from local councils and/or the Government to support them.

The research was revealed in the Palmer and Harvey Shop Health report 2012, an in-depth study of the newsagent sector in the UK, which included the views of survey of 1,000 shoppers. The report was launched at today’s Shop Health Summit in the Terrace Pavillion at the Houses of Parliament. The event was introduced by Priti Patel, MP for Witham, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops.

"There are some serious issues here," she said. "The reality is that small shops face many challenges and my role as chair of the Group for Small Shops is to try and bring some change to this area."

The report showed that increasing competition from multiple retailers, means that newsagents – usually a vital part of their local community – are under huge pressure, with some reports suggesting 10 are closing every week. Eight out of 10 consumers (79%) think it’s unfair that newsagents can’t compete on price with the buying power of chains.

The shoppers who believe local shops need explicit legal protection also suggested ways this could be achieved:

64% believe newsagents should pay lower rates if they can prove how much they do for their local community;

61% think they should automatically pay lower rates than nearby chain stores;

One in five (21%) believe supermarkets should not to be able to sell products at lower prices than small shops can get from their wholesalers.

Martyn Ward, managing director commercial and sales at Palmer and Harvey, said: “There’s a growing level of support for independent retailers over chain stores, and newsagents are perhaps the purest example. They’re usually small shops that are nonetheless vitally important to their local community, with some supporting local schools, sponsoring sports teams or providing a community noticeboard.”

The report revealed that 90% of people think having a local newsagent in the area is important to the community, whether for people who don’t have cars, those who are too busy to queue at a larger store or just to help provide a sense of community. Eight out of ten (79%) say that their first retail experience as a child was visiting the local sweetshop.

Martyn Ward added: “As a country we recognise that farmers are the guardians of our countryside and farmers currently receive a degree of protection. It could be argued that newsagents deserve the same treatment because they play such a vital role in the local community.

“Elderly shoppers often rely on shopkeepers delivering to their homes, and there’s no doubt that newsagents offer a level of personal service that few other retailers can match. Quite rightly, shoppers understand the value of their local newsagent and clearly want the government and local councils to do more to protect them.”