Every year in preparation for the Budget we tend to look for the announcements that balance the story against the sadly routine news about tobacco and alcohol duty going up. This year we didn’t just see an eye-popping 37p per pack increase in cigarette tax, but a host of other damaging measures.
Make no mistake, this was a terrible budget for local shops. An announcement on business rates was conspicuous by its absence, resulting in a 10-year high, 5.6% increase in rates bills this April. The Chancellor retained the alcohol duty escalator and went ahead with the 3p fuel duty rise. We then had the news that there will be changes to VAT policy on hot food and sports drinks, which will serve only to add costs to consumers and impact upon shops’ profitability.
However, the issue which will have the most financial impact on local shops is Sunday trading. Without any consultation, and with spurious links to helping visitors to the Olympics - who will, of course, be desperate to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event by buying a microwave from Tesco - we’re facing the prospect of large stores opening late for a total of eight Sundays. The relaxation in the law will cost small stores more than £480m in lost trade, but this has been ignored by government.
This is why we’ve launched our biggest ever postcard campaign, to highlight to MPs the damage this will do to local shops. Postcards were available throughout the National Convenience Show, at the ACS Summit and in Convenience Store, and we need your help to get the message out to MPs in England and Wales. Your voice can make a big difference to the passage of the Bill through Parliament - this is your opportunity to tell your MP that this summer isn’t just about the big stores. It’s your Olympics, too.