An influential group of MPs is to launch an inquiry into the future shape of local retailing. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops is to gather evidence on trends in the retail market in order to answer public concerns about “creeping centralisation”. It will invite evidence from retailers, consumers, trade associations and the government about the current High Street retailing market and how it will develop up to 2015.

The group has no statutory powers but will make recommendations to government and the Office of Fair Trading as to whether the market needs to be investigated and how public policy should be adapted for the benefit of consumers. It is the first time MPs have put such a focus on the retail sector.

More than 100 MPs have signed up for membership of the small shops group, which was formed in October 2003 after politicians decided small retail outlets needed a stronger voice in Parliament. Jim Dowd, Labour MP for Lewisham West, chairs the group.

He said: “My colleagues and I have become aware of the increasing concerns of our constituents and independent retailers about the loss of diversity and amenity within the retail sector. The inquiry will look at the broad spectrum of criteria for a thriving high street and the role this plays in the community.”

The inquiry will accept written evidence until the end of June, then call interested parties in for oral evidence in July. Evidence will be collated by the Retail Enterprise Network, based at Manchester Metropolitan University, which will publish the final report in September.

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