Invariably, the government tells us that its latest legislation or policy initiative will ‘create a level playing field’. Unfortunately, the reality is very different.
One small example: the UK government will introduce new labelling regulations for pre-packed food such as sandwiches. Given the growing importance of food to go in convenience, this will have a big impact.
Initially it looked like it would just be allergens that would have to be listed, but every ingredient will have to be labelled. Everyone will have to do it, but it’s not creating a level playing field. This type of requirement is much easier for the big supermarkets with centralised, well-resourced back office operations, than it is for hard-pressed independent retailers.
Similarly, there’s the whole range of compliance measures which need to be wrapped around the growing list of age-restricted products.
But the worst offender is the National Living Wage. The simple fact is that small businesses simply cannot absorb these increasing costs.
We can’t ignore the deposit return scheme (DRS) either. The fact is the supermarkets will make a staggering amount of money from DRS. They will get a handling fee of upwards of 3p for almost every drinks container they sell (billions of containers).
SGF has recently won two major concessions on DRS from the Scottish government: exemptions for smaller stores; and that reverse vending machines will not attract business rates.
It has taken a major effort from us to achieve these results. Levelling the playing field takes a lot of hard work from all of us.