This has been an important month for the convenience sector in Scotland, as the Scottish Grocers Federation held its first ever parliamentary exhibition at Holyrood. With the help of retailers representing Spar, Nisa and Premier, we engaged with over 80 MSPs over a three-day period, showing them the facts about our sector in Scotland. Not only is it worth £3.7bn to the Scottish economy, it also creates 42,000 jobs while each store reinvests an average of £341,000 directly back into its own local community.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of those MSPs we talked to were pretty taken aback by those figures. While they all recognised the value of a local store to its community in a social sense, very few had any idea of the amount of money we re-circulate directly back to local suppliers, tradesmen, professional services and other small businesses - particularly in comparison to supermarket chains.
The response we had was overwhelmingly supportive, and cross-party, with many of the MSPs expressing a desire to spend some time in their own constituents’ local stores, to hear the story “from the horses mouth”.
There is concern about supermarket dominance and diminishing diversity, and it was really heartening to get such a positive response from everyone we spoke to. We were lucky enough to speak to all the party leaders, and they are all interested in meeting with us to talk further about what measures can be taken to strengthen and protect our sector.
The next step is down to all of us. We are definitely pushing at an open door, and we all, across the whole of the UK, need to engage with politicians of all parties, local and national, and keep spreading the message.