James Lowman: ACS in action

Take shop theft seriously

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 8 Jan 2018

Over the Christmas period, we spent some time talking in the media about changes to the way the police, the courts and government respond to shop theft. There are a couple of separate issues at play here - first, different police forces are setting policies about how they prioritise their time and resource, with some not responding to shop theft below a certain threshold, for example £100. In reality, shop theft hasn’t prompted the arrival of several police officers and flashing blue lights for some time (if ever), but the public statement of these policies sticks in the throats of those of us who want to make sure shop theft is always seen as a crime with real victims.

The second and related issue exacerbates this problem. Shop thieves taking less than £200 worth of goods are now usually dealt with through an out-of-court disposal, which often means a ticket and an £80 fine. This in itself is a problem: there’s no deterrent against shop theft if the punishment is less than the incentive. However, the real problem is that some police forces often aren’t following the correct process for issuing these notices. 

The guidance on out-of-court disposals for shop theft is very clear: repeat offenders, those with drug or alcohol problems, and any offence where there was violence used, are not appropriate for a fixed penalty notice. Yet this form of penalty is being used for people in all of these categories. What’s more, according to the last government analysis, about half of fixed penalty notices weren’t even paid, and updated analysis hasn’t been forthcoming which makes one sceptical as to whether this record has improved. There may be a place for out-of-court disposals to tackle some incidents of shop theft, but the system as it’s currently being implemented is not effective by any measure.

The solutions here are complex, and sit with government, police forces, PCCs, the courts, and businesses themselves. One thing however is very simple: shop theft is a crime and should be treated as such.

Budget analysis

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 30 Nov 2017

So what did you make of the Budget? Frustration with announcements on minimum pay and tobacco duty, or silver linings on business rates?

Here’s the context on the National Living Wage: the policy of over 25s receiving minimum pay rates equal to 60% of median earnings by 2020 was set by George Osborne in July 2015, and the Low Pay Commission makes recommendations on how to get to that level. Earnings growth since then has been slower than originally forecast, so it looks like in 2020 we might have a National Living Wage of about £8.65. This latest announcement shows that the Low Pay Commission is moving towards that end point, and Philip Hammond is faithfully announcing their recommendations. That may not be much comfort if you’re facing a 4.4% increase in your biggest cost area, but it’s the reason why the budget announcement wasn’t a surprise to us.

If I can understand the series of events on the National Living Wage, I’m frustrated by the harm the government has caused to retailers and themselves by putting up tobacco duties once again. This is 100% about the illicit trade. Of course governments all over the world want to discourage smoking, and of course duty increases are seductive because it boosts Treasury income and they get little public backlash about it because everyone knows that smoking is harmful to health. Except the people who win from this are illicit traders in tobacco who have just seen their profit potential increase even further.

Time will tell whether we look back on this budget as the moment when business rates reform finally began, or as just another tactical concession. What we do know is that the Chancellor has given you back the last quarter of your April 2018 rates bill increase. He’s also promised to value your store every three years rather than every five years, which is fairer in principle but must be workable in practice. The fundamental problems with the business rates system need to be addressed once and for all, and lobbying from groups like ACS won’t ease up now. 

We’ll also have to wait to see whether the investigation into taxing plastic packaging is a tax grab or an enlightened environmental incentive. We know that a deposit return scheme that would be an operational nightmare for small shops, but would a plastics tax replace a DRS system, or operate alongside it, and would it be any better? We should welcome the chance to have a broader debate about how to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment.

Let us know your thoughts.

Too many unknowns

Posted by: James Lowman Fri, 3 Nov 2017

There has been a lot of media attention in recent weeks looking at things that can be done to improve recycling rates and reduce littering. One of the proposed measures is a deposit return scheme (DRS) for bottles and cans.

There are a number of unknowns about how such a scheme would work. We don’t yet know whether it’ll be just plastic bottles, plastic and glass, or even plastic, glass and metal cans, and there are still questions about whether stores would have to house large, expensive automatic reverse-vending machines, or take back materials manually at the till. If stores had to take back bottles manually it would cause problems for staff in terms of the time taken to deal with deposit returns, managing issues with customers that bring in items that can’t be recycled, and hygiene issues, as it’s unlikely that all of the bottles and cans will have been properly washed.

There’s also research suggesting that recycling rates of plastic bottles are already pretty high. Figures from Valpak show that 74% of plastic beverage containers are already being recycled, so if DRS were effective there would be only a 10-15% rise in recycling rates.

We as a sector are keen to be part of effective ways of reducing litter and the impact of discarded packaging on the environment. However, when it comes to DRS, the financial and operational risk to retailers is too high; there are too many unknowns about the details of a scheme; and there is a wide-ranging existing kerbside collection network that isn’t being utilised to its fullest effect.

Until all of these concerns are addressed, DRS cannot be a workable system in the UK.

Promote your local value

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 14 Aug 2017

We hear about convenience stores operating at the “heart of the community” a great deal. We should all be proud of the work our sector does in communities, but how do local people rate us alongside other shops and services?

This month we’re launching the third Community Barometer that asks consumers, retailers and local councillors this exact question. The results once again show how c-stores are widely perceived as having the most positive impact on their local area. What’s more, even though there are 50,000 c-stores in Great Britain, people want to see more of them in their local area. That’s a pretty compelling endorsement.

The only service that was seen as having a more positive impact on the local community was the Post Office, and most of these are now included in c-stores.

We can also claim a part of the credit for the third most popular service: specialist food shops. C-stores are increasingly offering speciality and locally-sourced foods as part of their offering, sometimes developing partnerships with butchers and bakeries, so the top three most positive local services are a significant part of the modern c-store offering.

You’ll be hearing us talking about this research in the national and local media, but why not make your councillors aware of these findings? Next time you face a tricky issue with an alcohol licence variation, require more help tackling crime, or want to apply for business rate relief, let them know that your business isn’t just important to you, it’s a valued service operating right at the heart of your community.

Post-election priorities

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 29 Jun 2017

After such an unexpected (for most) Election result, it’s no surprise that Theresa May followed up with a scaled-down Queen’s Speech.  Eight out of the 27 Bills announced related to delivering Britain’s exit from the European Union, which will take up a significant amount of parliamentary time leaving little room for changes to domestic policy. However, there were two things mentioned that will be important for our sector.

First, the speech included a commitment to look again at the fairness of the energy market. This is welcome news. Retailers should not be tied into unfair contracts and hit with excessive backbills.
Second, there was mention of raising the National Living Wage (NLW). We don’t yet know whether this is a new commitment or a reiteration of the manifesto pledge for the NLW to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020. Either way, continued increases will mean tough decisions for many retailers.

If anything, this Queen’s Speech was marked by what wasn’t in it, rather than what was. There was no commitment on Making Tax Digital proposals, and no sign of the Local Government Finance Bill plans that would have made significant changes to the way local authorities distribute rate relief. 
While the coming months will likely be dominated by Brexit discussions, our primary goal is to make sure that key domestic issues such as employment, rates, energy and crime remain front of mind for government officials.

You can keep up to date with our lobbying activity on our website at ACS.org.uk/lobbying or follow us on Twitter at @ACS_localshops.

Election priorities

Posted by: James Lowman Tue, 16 May 2017

As we enter election season, the day-to-day business of government is put on pause, but this doesn’t mean our work as a lobby group is less important. If anything, it’s one of the most important times as we seek to monitor and influence parties’ policies.

We have campaigned for several months to get a full review of the business rates system. This is an area that all the parties like to sound interested in, but the manifesto launches will tell us if we can expect substantial changes after the election.

Another area of interest is litter and we believe councils need more funding to maximise the effectiveness of kerbside recycling schemes, and that the next government should include small businesses in England in the 5p carrier bag charge.

One of the biggest costs for retailers is employment, with the major parties often being drawn into seeing who can pledge to make the minimum and living wages higher. We are clear that wage rates should not be used as a political football, and will continue to campaign to ensure that the Low Pay Commission isn’t given arbitrary targets to meet.

Finally, police forces must take shop theft seriously, and the government should put measures in place to ensure that the penalties are an effective deterrent and also help people who are driven to crime by addiction.

There will be more issues that affect your store locally and now is the perfect time to get your local candidates in store to ask them about what they plan to do to support your business if elected. You can find out more about arranging a store visit by emailing Steve Dowling at steve.dowling@acs.org.uk.

Mixed rates

Posted by: James Lowman Tue, 21 Mar 2017

On Budget day, all eyes were on the Chancellor to see what action he would take to mitigate the impact of revised business rate valuations. However, it is clear that Mr Hammond’s plans resulted in a mixed bag for our sector.

First the good news – a £300m relief fund available for businesses that are seeing significant increases in their rates bills in April. The fund will not be delivered centrally, though, but at the discretion of local authorities and it’s up to you to make a case for relief. If you would like advice on how to best make a representation, get in touch and we’ll do everything we can to help.

The bad news came not in the budget document itself, but in documents released by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the following hours. It detailed the government’s response to concerns about rates appeals.

We have been campaigning for months on the issue of rates appeals, specifically on the idea that businesses could still lose out even if their appeals are successful based on whether the valuation is considered to be within the bounds of ‘reasonable judgement’. So to find out that the government has essentially fudged its response and tried to sneak in a proposal that is indistinguishable from the one it’s replacing (assessing whether a judgement is reasonable as opposed to reasonable professional judgement) is disappointing. Our position is clear. Businesses must not be forced to overpay when their rates appeals are successful, and we will continue to make representations to government to ensure voices of retailers are heard.

The right to question

Posted by: James Lowman Wed, 11 Jan 2017

Over the Christmas period there was a lot in the papers about business rates as we build up to the new financial year starting in April, when businesses in England and Wales will start paying rates based on the latest revaluation. While a lot of the media coverage talks about the pounds and pence increases, the underlying issue remains that two years ago the government committed to undertaking a fundamental review of business rates and we’re yet to see clarity on the results.

One of the biggest issues to be addressed is that, under the current system, if you improve your store your premises is deemed to have increased in value, and your rateable value and rates bill will go up accordingly. Surely one of the ways a tax system should work is to encourage investment.

The lingering problems with the business rates system are made worse by proposals to reduce the number of appeals against business rate valuations. I have some sympathy with the government’s desire to cut down on the appeals that clog up the system, are time consuming, and have created an industry of speculative appeals initiated by (a minority of) agents seeking fees. But we also can’t expect businesses to take excessive rates bills on the chin. It’s not acceptable to deny businesses the right to challenge what may be unfair rating assessments.

The government should go back and look at whether the business rates system is incentivising investments, delivering fairness, and whether specific rating schemes in areas such as forecourt stores and ATMs are fit for purpose.

In the bank?

Posted by: James Lowman Wed, 16 Nov 2016

One of ACS’ ongoing political activities is the organisation of store visits with MPs so that they can hear from retailers in their constituency about the pressures facing their business as well as the developments in their store and engagement with their communities. During these visits (of which we’ve held more than 30 so far this year), investment is a topic that comes up almost every time.

With the cost of lending being comparatively low in recent years, you might expect that retailers can just go to the bank to secure loans for new investments. Our research suggests that this isn’t the case, with just 7% of retailers going to the bank for funding, while over two-thirds fund their investments from their own reserves, and about one in seven rely on funding from suppliers.

This highlights a wider issue that retailers have with banks that goes beyond just access to finance. We hear about the cost of doing business with a bank increasing, with charges for banking cash going up, charges for handling debit and credit card payments still too high, and many experiencing exorbitant fees and interest rates when using overdraft facilities.

Of course, retailers’ issues with banking can’t be taken in isolation from other big challenges such as hikes in National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates, and auto-enrolment pensions. We want to hear from you so that we can present a compelling picture to government and press for more support for retailers. What issues do you face when dealing with your banks, what does a good banking relationship look like, and what would help to improve this for your business?

Revaluing business rates

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 20 Oct 2016

At the end of September, the government released details of the long-awaited business rates revaluation that will take effect next April, determining the rateable values and business rates multiplier that all businesses will have to pay. Overall, rateable values look to have gone up on average, while the business rates multiplier has gone down.

So how will retailers be affected? On average, those in London, the South East or the East Midlands will pay more next year, with retailers in London being the hardest hit.

In other areas, the average rateable values have reduced slightly which, when coupled with a reduction in the business rates multiplier, could be good news for many.

While the revaluation marks a significant milestone, the government is still a long way from the job being done. We have been campaigning for reform in many aspects of the business rates system, making rates reform the central part of our submission to Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of the Autumn Statement.

For rates bills to be fair, all business types need to pay their fair share. The turnover-based model unfairly targets forecourts and ATM machines. We have called on the government to review this model while at the same time looking at the rates paid by internet distribution warehouses, which are low given the impact they’re having on the retail market.

We will continue to lobby government to make the case for our sector, and we want to hear from you about what’s happened to your rates bills so that we can build our evidence base for reform. You can get in touch with us by emailing steve.dowling@acs.org.uk

The fall in staff numbers

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 22 Sep 2016

Last week we launched the fifth edition of our centrepiece research project on the convenience sector, the Local Shop Report. The report shows that, overall, the sector remains in growth and employs about 390,000 staff across the UK.

However, for the first time since we started putting together the report in 2012, there has been a reduction in the average number of people working in each store, and a move to people working shorter part-time hours.

We believe the reason for this decline is as a result of cutbacks due to the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW). We know from conversations with retailers that they were planning to cut back staff hours, store investment and/or staff numbers as a result of the £7.20 wage rate, and it looks as though this is coming to fruition after the NLW’s introduction in April.

The data in the Local Shop Report gives us a detailed picture of what is happening in the sector at a national level, but one of the most valuable ways we use it is to find out specific information about the number of stores and staff in each constituency, which we send to every MP in Westminster to demonstrate the role that local shops play in their area.

We’re currently in the process of hosting dozens of store visits around the country to allow retailers to talk directly to MPs about the issues facing their store, which will culminate at Heart of the Community, our annual political conference.

If you would like to arrange a store visit with your local MP, or would like to meet them at the Heart of the Community reception on 11 October, email steve.dowling@acs.org.uk.

Speak out on wage concerns

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 6 Jun 2016

This April saw one of the most significant cost increases in businesses in recent memory. The introduction of the National Living Wage at £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and over has left many retailers searching for savings to offset this cost.

Our most recent research suggests that retailers are already feeling its impact. We survey more than 1,200 retailers every quarter and the latest results tell us that retailers are not intending to increase staff hours and we have seen a fall in the percentage who say they’re planning to invest in their business in the coming year.

I’ll be honest with you: influencing policymakers on this issue is extremely hard. The perception among the public and many decision-makers is that staff in all sectors should be paid more.
An important part of our strategy is to work with other organisations to give a clear message that the impact of the National Living Wage is being felt far and wide. Fundamentally, though, our job is to spell out the impact with cold hard facts, and that’s where you are crucial.

When we speak to the Low Pay Commission and government departments, we need to have credible information at our disposal.

Our National Living Wage survey takes just a few minutes to complete, with your responses playing a vital role in the evidence base that we present to the Commissioners who will make a recommendation on future rates.

You can take the survey on our website (www.acs.org.uk)and we encourage you to write to your MP and explain the impact that the National Living Wage is having on your business.

Election season

Posted by: James Lowman Tue, 3 May 2016

We are in the heart of another election season, with representatives for the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, Police and Crime Commissioners, the Mayor of London and local government in England all up for grabs in May. In addition, the public will be going to the polls in June to decide our future as a nation either in or out of the European Union.

You may have strong views about membership of the EU, but when I analyse the issues facing local shops, I find most are determined more by local councils and by parliaments in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Westminster than by Brussels.

To give one example, the Welsh Assembly has been considering whether to introduce a tobacco register which retailers would have to pay fees for. We campaigned against the plans and gave evidence to an Assembly committee. Thankfully the plans have been dropped, but it is a stark reminder that devolved assemblies have wide-ranging powers that can affect your bottom line.

Perhaps the least newsworthy poll of the set is the election of Police and Crime Commissioners. Ahead of the elections, we’re writing to every PCC candidate asking them about their intentions in the role. We aim to get assurances that they will prioritise neighbourhood policing teams, ensure that fixed penalty notices are used appropriately (and that their use is suspended when they’re not), recognise the impact that business crime has on retailers and their staff, and make recommendations to retailers on how best to report crime. Getting these assurances will be an important step toward ensuring that crimes against retailers are taken seriously.

Stamping out crime

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 14 Mar 2016

From almost my first day with ACS, there has been one message I’ve heard more than any other from retailers: crime is the biggest operational burden on their business. Not only is the cost a significant issue, but so, too, is the toll it takes on the people working in store.

On 17 March we will be launching our annual Crime Report at the Crime Seminar in London. Delegates will hear how shop theft cost the sector more than £43m last year, a significant rise on 2014. On a more positive note, there has been a steady decline in incidents of violence and verbal abuse, but nearly half of retailers still have to cope with such incidents.

The report forms part of our continuing strategy to get tackling retail crime higher up the government’s agenda. We believe there are three key areas that government needs to urgently address. First, we have reiterated our calls for penalties for violence against shopworkers to match those for violence against public servants.

Second, we believe that giving fixed penalty notices to repeat offenders and having a £200 threshold for offences before an offender has to go to court does nothing to tackle crime. We want an urgent review into the number of out-of-court disposals and court summons that have been issued to shop thieves since the £200 threshold was introduced.

Third, there needs to be continued investment in neighbourhood policing and PCSOs so that they can work pro-actively with local retailers in tackling crime. Many retailers are frustrated at slow police response times when they report crime, and the sustainable answer to this is building a relationship.

Budget checklist

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 25 Feb 2016

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was more interesting for what wasn’t in it than what was. The popular Retail Rate Relief scheme that gave retailers up to £1,500 off their business rates bill was most notable by its absence, 
with the Treasury later confirming that it was not to be renewed.

Ahead of the Budget in March, we have called for the Chancellor to reinstate this rates discount and go further, providing retailers with up to £2,000-off their rates bill.

We believe c-stores have been bearing too high a business rates burden, and that this is compounded by the costs of challenging often inaccurate valuations. That’s why we’re pushing for a threshold below which businesses need not be valued for business rates.

Special schemes for forecourts and also ATMs have also got out of kilter and need to be reviewed.
While most of our recommendations to the Chancellor this year have been focused on restructuring the way businesses pay taxes, there is one key recommendation that is far simpler and could help plug a £3bn hole in the economy every year. The illicit trade in alcohol and tobacco is hugely damaging to local shops and needs to be tackled as a top priority. We are calling for ring-fenced funding for HM Revenue and Customs to stop these criminals trading in local areas by removing licences for stores that are selling illicit goods.

The Chancellor will almost certainly be looking at ways to claim he is helping small businesses when he stands up on 16 March. The measures that we have outlined in our submission would make that happen.

Engage with local decision-makers

Posted by: James Lowman Thu, 14 Jan 2016

2016 will bring a bumper year of Scottish, Welsh, local, council and potentially European referendum votes which could have just as big an impact on your business as the General Election last year. This government is committed to the localism agenda – giving more powers to councils to make decisions on the local economy, investment, planning, licensing, even public health.

Just look at two of our big political priorities at the moment: Sunday trading and business rates. Both are being driven in part by the government’s desire to devolve more powers to the local level. We are actively campaigning against any change to Sunday rules and your help is crucial in this; you can find out more at www.keepsundayspecial.org.uk.

The second big area of change when it comes to local powers is on business rates. At the Conservative Party Conference towards the end of last year, the Chancellor proudly announced the ‘end of the uniform business rate’, allowing councils to set and keep the rates income that they generate. The rhetoric conveniently ignores the existing powers for local authorities to grant discretionary rate relief, and the only firm policy change we have seen is for councils to get the power to increase rates to fund infrastructure projects. Nonetheless, local decision-making is at the core of the government’s thinking on business rates.

So, with more decisions than ever before being made locally this year, it’s vital you engage with local decision-makers to educate them on the importance of your business both to the local economy and community.

Business waits

Posted by: James Lowman Fri, 4 Dec 2015

The Autumn Statement has become a political set piece almost on par with the Budget, so what did the Chancellor announce this year? First, let’s credit him on renewing Small Business Rate Relief for another year. This measure helps small businesses to the tune of more than £1bn a year.

While this will help many, it was the exclusion of another policy that we are most concerned about. Over the past two years, government has given high street retailers a rates discount of £1,000 (in 2014) and £1,500 (in 2015). Unfortunately, the Treasury has confirmed that this policy has not been renewed and will end in 2016. It is worth putting this into context. The retail rates discount was introduced out of a desire to help high street retailers to compete in the face of high vacancy rates, tough internet competition and concern about dying town centres. With this measure now being officially scrapped, does the government believe that its work is done when it comes to high streets and retail?

There are also long-term implications in the Autumn Statement for the future of business rates. The Chancellor has talked in terms of removing the ‘uniform business rate’, but this remains firmly in place, with local authorities given the opportunity to vary it. The fundamental way in which your business rates are calculated has not been changed, and this remains a key decision for government in its review of business rates.

In the months leading up to the April Budget, we will be campaigning for the renewal of the retail rate discount along with calling for wider rates reform to help small businesses.

Keep up the pressure

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 2 Nov 2015

Over the past few months we have been working with other retail organisations, unions and church groups through the Keep Sunday Special (KSS) campaign to send a clear message to government that changing Sunday trading hours is an unnecessary and damaging move.

During Prime Minister’s questions last week, David Cameron answered a question on Sunday trading, but failed to mention anything about the economic impact of the plans – perhaps because he knows that the arguments for generating more money for the UK economy don’t stand up.

Since the launch of the KSS campaign, MPs from across the political spectrum have been showing support for retaining the existing regulations. At this year’s Heart of the Community reception we had a record number of MPs attend to speak to retailers in their constituencies, and as a result of this and other efforts there is a growing rebellion within government of MPs planning to oppose the change.

What these MPs understand is that the existing Sunday trading regulations are extremely important to thousands of convenience stores and, without them, many will lose out on trade that could be the difference between them making a profit and being in the red.

We are doing everything we can to ensure that government is made to think carefully about whether it should introduce the changes, but you can help by contacting your MP and telling them about the impact that the change will have on your business. Every voice raising concerns to ministers is crucial, so your input could make a real difference.

Now is the time to speak out on Sunday trading

Posted by: James Lowman Tue, 11 Aug 2015

Last week, the government finally launched details of the consultation on plans to devolve Sunday trading regulations to local authorities. We knew that the consultation was coming after being announced in the Budget - what we weren’t expecting was how bad the government’s justification for the changes would be.
Half of the evidence that they’ve used to justify the removal of Sunday trading is from the Blair government’s report in 2006, and the other half has been so badly misinterpreted from the original research that it is almost unrecognisable.
The potential impact that these changes could have on stores must not be underestimated. When the government temporarily relaxed Sunday trading laws during the 2012 Olympics, Oxford Economics did an analysis of the lost sales to convenience stores, estimating between £9.7m and £26m in lost sales. Over the course of a year, this would amount to somewhere between £63m and £169m.
Every convenience store in England and Wales has to write to their MP opposing 24 hour Sunday trading, asking them to relay their concerns to the Prime Minister. We have a template letter available on our website at www.acs.org.uk, but we also encourage you to write your own letters, outlining the impact that removing Sunday trading regulations will have on your business.
It’s also important that we believe we can make a difference. Those of us opposing these changes - unions, church groups or small retail groups - are making headway. Now is the time to step up and play your part.

Counting the cost of the Budget

Posted by: James Lowman Mon, 13 Jul 2015

The last week has been – in political terms at least - one of the most difficult for local shops in recent memory. Plans announced in the Budget to liberalise Sunday Trading rules and introduce a Living Wage of £7.20 an hour in April 2016 rising to at least £9 an hour in 2020 have the potential to be incredibly costly and damaging to the sector. We spent much of the week speaking up for retailers in the media, but for all the soundbites, if we want to argue against these measures we need robust research on how these changes will affect you.

Our work with the University of Oxford’s Said Business School over the last two years has allowed us to develop a model of the pressures facing different types of store in the sector. Using this model, we are able to look at the potential impact of the introduction of a living wage and Sunday trading deregulation in much more detail. For example, the introduction of the living wage is likely to cost larger convenience stores on average £8,100 a year, while even smaller urban stores will see an increase in staff costs of over £2,100 on average.  The Chancellor also announced an increase in the employment allowance to offset the costs of the living wage, but the allowance is only increasing by £1,000 and it is for the business as a whole – retailers who own more than one store will get proportionately less benefit from this measure, and very few retailers will be net better off from these two changes combined.

On Sunday Trading, our research during the Olympics showed that many convenience store sales took a 20% hit on Sundays where larger stores were open. This is likely to cost stores trading on suburban parades and estates over £51,000 in lost sales a year. At a time when many of these stores are operating on the edge of profitability, liberalisation of Sunday Trading rules alone has the potential to put many businesses in the red.

This Budget was one full of ambition from a Chancellor with one eye on the house next door. However, his long term ambitions have left small businesses short changed and it’s up to us to ensure that government knows the damage that his plans could do to the UK’s 50,000 convenience stores, and the 386,000 staff who rely on these stores for jobs.

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