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News - 22 February 2008

A last chance to save small retailers

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on Peers to support the Retail Development Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords on 22 February.

Following what the FSB has deemed a failure by the Competition Commission last week to ensure fair competition in the grocery sector, the Bill calls for measures to create a level playing field for small shops and supermarkets:

  • A business rates review based on annual turnover and floor space
  • The introduction of retail development plans that put the interests of local communities first
  • The creation of an independent Office of Retail Planning

The Bill, sponsored by Lord Cotter, is the latest attempt to save small shops and enable local communities to have a voice and influence where new supermarkets are planned. The Bill promotes the right to choice, diversity and convenience.

The UK is losing 2000 small shops each year and is rapidly approaching a tipping point after which there will be too few local retailers to make the wholesale market viable.

Clive Davenport, FSB Trade & Industry Chairman, said, "The Retail Development Bill offers a lifeline to many local communities that rapidly losing their local shops and services. The future of 50,000 small shops hangs in the balance, so we call on Peers to support this Bill in the hope that it will gain Government backing.

"We need a review of business rates to ensure that small shops at the heart of the community are not paying over the odds, while out of town supermarkets pay rock bottom rates. We also want an independent Office of Retail Planning to consider the wider impact of retail developments on local economies and communities.

"It is frankly absurd that on the one hand we are told to reduce our carbon footprint, whilst on the other we are haemorrhaging our independent retailers, which are based on our doorsteps and source local produce. The average person now travels 893 miles a year to shop for food. The best solution for our economy and the environment is to 'Keep Trade Local'."

Friends of the Earth welcomed the Bill's emphasis on the need for Government action to protect and promote retail diversity.

Sandra Bell, supermarkets campaigner for Friends of the Earth said, "The Retail Development Bill does what the Competition Commission has failed to do - it acknowledges the significant contribution that small independent shops bring to local communities and economies. And it supports genuine diversity in retailing where the Competition Commission only aims to give shoppers a choice between the big bland supermarkets".

Read related items on:
Retail, pubs, clubs and restaurants
Federation of Small Businesses
Friends of the Earth
Bell, Sandra
Davenport, Clive

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