Middle aisle confectionery

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the Scottish Government to save consumers and small businesses from additional costs that may stem from High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) legislation.

The government’s consultation on HFSS proposes restrictions on the location and promotion of relevant products in stores as part of its ambition to reduce obesity rates but also plans to introduce restrictions on: temporary price reductions (for example 10% off a product for a defined period of time); free standing displays and islands in store that feature HFSS products; meal deal restrictions in some form, either those that contain one or more HFSS products, or discretionary foods (multiple options are set out in the consultation).

The cost of adapting a store to comply with the proposed regulations is estimated to be on average around £13,000 per site. The ACS cautioned that thousands of Scottish small businesses will be impacted by the regulations due to their membership of a symbol group being incorrectly deemed similar to a franchise agreement.

This is inconsistent with other areas of policy where symbol group retailers are treated as small businesses. ACS added that the inclusion of symbol groups in England has served only to create confusion and additional costs for independent retailers and is set to have the same impact in Scotland.

ACS chief executive James Lowman warned that these restrictions could prove costly for independent retailers. “It is clear from the consultation that the Scottish Government are still having trouble understanding how symbol groups work, despite several attempts by us and others to clarify the simple fact that symbol group stores are run by independent retailers. Their inclusion in the regulations will serve only to add thousands of pounds of cost for small businesses that are already dealing with the effects of a cost of trading crisis.

“There are some areas where the Scottish Government is taking a different approach to England, notably by outlawing price reductions on single products, in addition to the multi-buy restrictions due to be introduced in England. Going further than England will not make a difference to public health, but it will punish Scottish consumers looking to keep their shopping bills low.”