Pete Cheema (1)

A torrent of restrictions across a range of product areas, on top of issues such as retail crime and reduced business rates relief, could be the final nail in the coffin for many convenience stores, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has claimed.

SGF has accused governments in Edinburgh and Westminster of failing to recognise what can reasonably be delivered by convenience retailers, claiming that they could potentially suffocate businesses with overregulation, with some stores becoming no longer viable in the coming years.

It is expected that by the end of 2025, the sector will face at least six new areas of regulatory burden, including:

·      In store restrictions to the placement and marketing of alcohol products, one of Scotland’s most celebrated industries. In addition to a rising Minimum Unit Price on alcohol products.

·      Restrictions on the promotion and location of dozens of food items categorised as High in Fat, Sugar, or Salt.

·      Potential restrictions on the visibility and sale of vaping products in store.

·      A generational ban on the sale of tobacco products.

·      Requirements to meet new net zero targets relating to the Circular Economy Bill and WEEE regulations, including changes to waste and recycling management.

·      A UK-wide deposit return scheme.

Scottish retailers are already having to contend with significant pressures on their finances and mental health. SGF’s latest research shows that retail crime in Scotland has an average cost of £12,000 per convenience store per year.

What’s more, SGF claimed that real terms reductions to business rates relief for small businesses, means some Scottish convenience stores are now operating at a considerable disadvantage to their counterparts in England. 

Dr Pete Cheema OBE, SGF chief executive, said: “We are warning ministers now, this direction of travel will result in stores that are lifelines for their communities turning off the lights for good.

“Our governments have said they want our local businesses and communities to flourish, to promote local living, local produce, and local services. In reality, they are doing everything they can to sink thousands of essential local businesses across Scotland.

“Regulations and restrictions always fall hardest on smaller businesses, most of whom just don’t have the capacity or resource to cope with change after change. Moreover, it fails to account for the devastating impact of external factors such as inflation, energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis.

“SGF believes in responsible community retailing, and we want to help make our country a better place to live. Instead of attacking well-meaning businesses, ministers need to think again and come up with a joined-up and workable approach to introducing new regulation.

“It’s the easy road for ministers to place ban after ban on our sector, but what will remain once the dust has settled?”