Chief Executive’s Blog: Local Shops in Wales

We had a really great day in Cardiff last week, launching the Welsh Local Shop Report which gives all the facts and figures on the contribution that our members make to communities and the economy in Wales.  It’s a really positive story: more store per head than any other part of the UK, 25,000 jobs, £49m of investment, and a higher proportion of that going into providing essential services like post offices and free-to-use ATMs.

It was also a really positive event launching the report, with Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates AM, the chair of the Cross Party Group for Small Shops, Janet Finch-Saunders AM, many more Welsh Assembly Members, and retailers from not just convenience stores, but also fine food outlets, country stores, newsagents and fashion stores.  So now we’ve established why local shops are important to the economy and communities in Wales, and we’ve built contacts and relationships, what are the issues that matter for shops west of Offa’s Dyke?

The Welsh Assembly Government has been a leader in helping small and rural businesses to reduce their business rates burden.  To some extent, the UK has caught up in providing more statutory rate relief, so the agenda here moves to discretionary relief – how can we persuade more Welsh local authorities to use the powers they have to top up rate relief and target support at the businesses that need it most, and where this investment will support growth?  There are also decisions facing the Welsh Assembly Government now about the appeals system for business rates, and they have to find better ways of making the appeals system work for retailers than the troubled “check, challenge, appeal” system developed in England.

The Welsh Assembly has also spent time recently discussing how to tackle recycling, and specifically the problem of ocean plastics.  Introducing a deposit return scheme would worry us because it would bring new costs and operational problems for retailers, but it’s really important that we engage with this debate in Wales and elsewhere to find ways of reducing litter and ocean plastics – you can see our submission to the Welsh Assembly Government on this here, and of course we’ve had lots of discussions with officials and Welsh AMs about this issue over recent months.  From a business perspective, it would be much easier to have one UK-wide scheme to work with, rather than different approaches in Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.  Credit should go to Welsh councils for already delivering the best record in the UK on household recycling and introducing compulsory carrier bag charging for all retailers, so we should look at what others can learn from this, as well as thinking about new approaches.  

Of course a disproportionate number of shops in Wales are in rural areas, and one of the big issues facing these stores is broadband coverage.  These stores need good connectivity for their mobiles, portable devices, PCs and in-store tech not just because they want to use the opportunities available to market their businesses and engage with customers, but because increasingly you can’t run a legal and compliant business without good connectivity.  The Cross Party Group for Small Shops is currently looking in depth at entrepreneurship in Welsh retail, and alongside all the positive work we can do to promote innovation and investment, the nuts and bolts of internet connectivity, banking services and transport are enablers of business growth.

If you’re based in Wales, or trade in Wales, get in touch so we can work together to tackle these issues and make sure Wales continues to host some of the best of convenience retailing.

This entry was posted by Chris on Mon, 12/02/2018 - 12:18