MPs have held a debate calling on the Government to do more to support independent retailers.
The debate was held at Westminster Hall where the House of Commons gives MPs the opportunity to raise issues of importance to them with Private Members’ adjournment debates.
Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, led the debate and highlighted a number of challenges facing independent retailers including business rates, competition from large multiple retailers and increasing skills for trading online.
Speaking about competition from large retailers Esterson said: “Research by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) suggests that 76% of new retail space given planning consent is located outside town centres. Far more planning consents are given to out-of-town developments than to town centre developments….
“The issue is about having a level playing field, and about fairness between large and small businesses. If the big chains wipe out the independents, we will all lose as the identity of our communities will suffer. Competition will be reduced if there is no one to challenge the big players.”
Michael Fallon MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, responded on behalf of the Government. He outlined the Government’s support package for high streets and the £1,000 rates discount to support the retail industry and reassured MPs that “the interests of smaller and local retailers are not being squeezed out”.
Fallon said: “We are seeing increases in local shopping because of consumer demand. Research by the Association of Convenience Stores shows that the fruit and vegetable sector has experienced considerable growth as people move away from doing one big weekly shop, and are instead increasingly using local stores and shopping more often.”
Commenting after the debate, ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are grateful to Bill Esterson MP for highlighting the challenges faced by independent retailers and the minister’s reassurance that the Government is committed to supporting independent retailers. We will continue to work with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the retail strategy and support action taken by the Government to reduce the burden of rates and employer national insurance contributions that will help independent retailers to thrive and invest in their business.”