ACS Blog

Making Freedom Day a Success

The Prime Minister has announced plans for the full re-opening of the economy and the end of legal restrictions on how people can behave, from 19 July. I leave the debate on whether this is strategically the right decision to the epidemiologists and behavioural scientists, but of course I’d like to see a return to normal as soon as we can. The problem is that the way the government is taking this next step is already looking flawed, and we need to see some changes in their approach right now if we’re going to move forward safely.

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Finding and Keeping Great People

Pop into your local town centre, or look online, and you’ll see countless adverts for jobs in hospitality. Pubs, hotels and restaurants are facing acute staff shortages with the continuation of the furlough scheme until September, the loss of some potential workers from the EU who may feel less able or inclined to come to work in post-Brexit Britain, and the additional time lags and hassle brought about by Covid testing regimes. All this adds up to another blow to hospitality which is of course at the sharp end of the pandemic in any case.

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Investing for Growth?

Two things happened last week that have prompted me to write this: we had Rishi Sunak’s second budget, and closer to home our Voice of Local Shops survey results came back. This is our quarterly survey of about 1,200 retailers in which we find out their levels of optimism, future plans, and views on a range of issues where we’re talking to government. It’s an invaluable part of what we do, making sure that we’re able to share facts as well as sentiment as we take part in policy discussions on issues that retailers care about.

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Supporting People Living With Dementia

We’ve all got a little bit too used to looking at statistics over the past year. I hope you don’t doomscroll for the 5pm updates on Coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths every day, but even if you’re trying to avoid looking at this it’s hard to avoid the stark and shocking numbers providing the backdrop to this period of our lives. It’s a bit of a cliché to say we should look at the people behind the statistics – of course we should do that but it’s quite abstract and often quite depressing.

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The Future of Cash

I was looking to draft a blog about the future of cash, and then the government launched a call for evidence on … the future of cash, so here are my thoughts which now kind of double as a framework for how we will respond to this consultation. The debate about the future of cash in the UK economy and specifically in convenience stores touches on lots of the issues that I find really interesting about our sector and how we manage change.

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Celebrating the Heart of Our Communities

As is the theme of 2020, this year’s Heart of the Community conference looked rather different to our usual setup, due to Covid-19 were unable to gather physically so instead this was done virtually and I’m pleased to say that this was done successfully.

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The Next Phase

Since the start of the Covid crisis my colleagues and I at ACS have not just been working to help members to deal with the immediate challenges they’ve been facing, we’ve also been leading a discussion about what we can all learn from this experience. Which of the behaviours we’ve seen over this period will last, which are specific to this time? What would we do differently if we had our time again or if the same issues emerged again?

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Revisiting the Obesity Debate and the Impact on Local Shops

I’m not the first person to note that the Covid-19 crisis has shaken up politics. After the December 2019 election, we were expecting to be dealing with a government populated by libertarians and putting great faith in the free market and personal responsibility. The one thing we didn’t expect Boris Johnson to be accused of was operating a nanny state, but that’s exactly the charge being levelled by some now.

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Changes to Sunday trading won’t kickstart a retail recovery

Few issues divide the retail industry and fire up an emotional response like Sunday trading.

Some see any restrictions on trading hours as fundamentally at odds with a free market, others think it’s outrageous that we allow any retailing at all on a Sunday.

I respect both of those views, but I find myself aligned – personally and on behalf of the convenience stores I represent – with the majority of the public who, time after time, tell us that they support the current compromise of allowing six consecutive opening hours on a Sunday.

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The Constant in a Changing World

I’m not sure when we’ll be able to look back and reflect objectively on this extraordinary period in our lives and in the history of the world, the country and our sector. Certainly now – ten weeks on from when Coronavirus truly hit our sector – is far too soon. But we can reflect on what we’ve learned in this time, and I think that times like this reveal more about who we are and the purpose we serve.

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