Independent retailers operate in a world where trade issues and legislation can and do have an enormous impact on businesses and livelihoods. Through our public affairs work we enable members to engage politically on the issues that matter to them and provide the tools to get elected political representatives to become effective advocates during policy making.
If you need any help in contacting your MP or political representatives, or have any questions relating to the political aspects of any campaign, please do not hesitate to contact the public affairs team at email@example.com
NFRN sets out business rates reform plans
With the biggest rate revaluation in history taking effect from 1 April 2017, more than 500,000 businesses are facing substantial rises in their business rates, which could increase by as much as 300%. Many retailers, particularly in London and the South East of England, have seen their rates increase by 60%. These increases place significant financial burdens on small and micro businesses – a 60% increase for an independent retailer could put them out of business.
Shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey has said small businesses face “cliff-edge” rises when the new valuations take effect. Ms Long-Bailey said: “The reality is that business rates are a ticking time bomb.
“It cannot be right for smaller town centre retailers to be facing massive hikes while the Amazons and ASOSs of this world have their business rates cut.”
Last week (21 February 2017) the NFRN launched its Business Rates 2017 Report in the House of Commons, which sets out the recommendations it would like the government to adopt to help small businesses.
Download the NFRN’s Business Rates Report 2017 here
Find out the latest ways that the NFRN is developing its profile and building recognition of the needs of independent retailers in all parliaments and assemblies. More importantly, see how you can help!
Retail crime is a substantial and growing threat to independent retailers across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Retail crime encompasses a wide range of offences that are committed against either retail businesses or premises, or against the staff. The most obvious example is shop theft, more commonly called ‘shoplifting’, but more serious offences range from robbery, burglary and physical abuse. Retail crime directly cost businesses £613million in 2014-15, this is the equivalent to 50,000 retail sector jobs.
The NFRN is raising the profile of retail crime and highlighting the real victims of retail crime. Too often are shop workers abused and assaulted in their place of work, which is why the NFRN has called for the Government to establish protection for shop workers by establishing a specific offence crime for assaulting shop workers in a public facing role.
In our campaign, NFRN Public Affairs will be meeting with Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, highlighting the need to protect businesses and their staff which are a crucial part of the local community. In addition, the NFRN continue to meet with MPs and Ministers to raise the profile, as well as meeting with the Home Office Crime Unit to discuss retail crime issues further.
NFRN ‘Victims in Retail’ pack
The NFRN’s ‘Victims in Retail’ pack tables the latest statistics regarding crime in the retail industry, showing the direct cost of retail crime was £613million last year – the highest level since records began, with a 28 per cent increase in violent or abusive incidents against shop staff.
NFRN Retail Crime Survey
Results from the NFRN’s own Retail Crime Survey revealed that many independent retailers did not report shop theft to the police. A quarter of respondents said this was because the ‘police did not respond to their initial reporting’, 23 per cent stated that the ‘police were unable to catch the offender’ and 34 per cent stated that the ‘process takes up too much time to pursue’.
In June 2016, a delegation from the NFRN met with Home Office policy advisors from the Tackling Crime Unit who said they were deeply concerned by the level of abuse occurring in the retail industry and agreed to discuss this with the Minister responsible.
NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter said: “For far too long small independent retailers have been seen as easy targets by criminals, in the main because of the long and unsocial hours that they work.
“Rising incidents of violent crime and the safety of our members are issues that are of real concern to the NFRN. We believe that more progress must be made to tackle a problem that has literally driven many members out of business and for many, many more is a daily and very threatening menace.
“For the NFRN raising awareness of the impact of retail crime and making life safer for members, their families and their staff are key priorities. We were pleased to be able to address our concerns with the Home Office’s Tackling Crime Unit and look forward to holding similar discussions with all 41 Police and Crime Commissioners and any other parties that have an interest in working pro-actively with the NFRN to tackle retail crime.”
NFRN calls for more action as violence and abuse against retail staff soars
3 February 2017
The NFRN has renewed calls for police and government to do more to protect independent retailers after a new crime report revealed that violence and abuse against staff has risen by a whopping 40 per cent in a year.
According to the 2016 Retail Crime Survey, and equally worryingly, is the fact that 56 per cent of retailers said that police responses to retail crime incidents were ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Commenting, NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter said: “The safety of our members is of paramount concern to the NFRN. Sadly, these new figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show that for many retailers crime is an almost daily and very threatening menace which has long term impacts for both shop owners and their staff.
“As if the rising incidents of violence and abuse were not shocking enough, it’s frightening that many incidents will go unreported because more than half of the respondents do not believe the police will respond. This figure could actually be much higher than any of us realise.
“As independent retail shops are open for long and unsocial hours, those behind the counter are easy crime targets. Often they will face verbal abuse and even violence simply for refusing to make a sale to a customer that they believe to be underage.
“With retail crime incidents soaring, more has to be done by the police and government before even more retailers are driven out of business.
“At our Westminster reception on February 21 we will making MPs and ministers aware of the need for more proactive action from all parties, including better response times from police and stiffer penalties for anyone who commits a crime against a retailer.
“Through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Retail Crime we will also be raising awareness of the devastating impact that retail crime has on its local communities.
“And we will continue to lobby police and crime commissioners to act so that retail crime victims have confidence to come forward and report incidents to their local police in the knowledge that action will be taken.”
NFRN investigation reveals ‘postcode lottery’ policing
18 August 2016. Source: BetterRetailing
Retailers face a “postcode lottery” on how police will respond to crime in their stores, data obtained through Freedom of Information requests has revealed.
The NFRN logged requests with 42 forces and received 16 responses that expose huge gaps in police response times throughout the year.
In Nottinghamshire, the average response time to an incident of retail crime for an ‘immediate’ (grade 1) response in March 2015 was 14 minutes, 199 minutes in June, and 65 minutes in October.
Similar inconsistencies were also since in other areas such as the City of London.
Meanwhile, the requests showed 29% of incidents of retail crime in Bedfordshire were categorised as ‘priority’ response, whereas in Lincolnshire 44% were classed as ‘priority’.
Will Pryce, NFRN public affairs manager, said: “What became clear from the responses, or in too many cases the lack of responses, was the police’s lack of clear understanding of what retail crime is.
“We do not believe in a postcode lottery of police responses. Retailers need to trust that police are taking their reporting seriously.”
The report also showed a variation in the response to incidents reported by supermarkets and independent retailers.
In Leicestershire, 56% of shop theft reports by independent retailers were ‘not attended’, compared with 36% of incidents logged by a supermarket chain being classed as a ‘priority’ response.
“Where statistics were available, huge disparities in response times were apparent, not just between police forces, but also between incidents at independent retailers and those at chain supermarkets,” Mr Pryce added.
“To better understand the real level of retail crime and how the police are recording, responding and reacting, the NFRN will be issuing more FoI requests in the near future.”
The responses also revealed an average 15% rise in the number of incidents in 2015 compared to 2014.
For more articles on retail crime, visit nfrnonline.com/tag/retail-crime/
Living Wage and Minimum Wage
The introduction of the Living Wage brought more than a 10% burden in salary payments overnight, when independent retailers’ businesses themselves have not witnessed such increases in sales. This, in addition with the auto-enrolment pension scheme has brought financial challenges for independent retailers.
The NFRN has engaged with the Low Pay Commission in the hope that its recommendations to Government will fully take into account the impact both the scheduled increases to the National Living Wage and Minimum Wage will have on small and mico businesses.
Ahead of the previous Low Pay Commission review, the NFRN conducted a member’s survey on the likely impact of an increase in the National Minimum Wage on staffing in their shops; 30% of respondents reported that they would have to reduce the number of hours worked by their staff, with 14% saying they would have to take on additional hours themselves. Only 16% of those who responded said they would be able to absorb the increase in costs.
In addition, the NFRN’s research has shown that the proposals to introduce a National Living Wage have caused even greater concerns among NFRN members, with nearly 12% of members saying they would have to close their businesses as a result. The NFRN is in favour of a ‘National Living Wage’, however, the increases should be appropriate and the rise in wage rates should be affordable, instead of 10% increases at a time. This, in addition with the auto-enrolment scheme, is increasingly costly for a small or mico business.
The NFRN will be responding to the Low Pay Commission’s consultation on the ‘National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage: 2016 evidence.
National Living Wage Survey
The NFRN has launched its National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage members’ survey to gather evidence on how the increased wages have affected retailers.
Independent retailers already have to cope with some of the longest working weeks, which is why it’s vital that the Government recognises the impact the National Living Wage has on micro-businesses. By 2020, the living wage is likely to rise to £9.20 per hour – a 34% increase.
NFRN CEO, Paul Baxter, said: “What the NFRN wants is for the Government and the Low Pay Commission to look carefully at the impact that both the minimum wage and the Living Wage have on small shops before they prescribe further increases. We would also suggest that the minimum wage should not be considered in the abstract, that the full implications on business costs are taken into account, and that new measures to support small businesses are implanted before it is increased again.”
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Illicit Trade - Suspect it? Report it!
The illicit trade market, in particular tobacco and alcohol is a costly burden not only to legitimate retailers but also to the Treasury, with a loss of more than £3.6bn each year in lost revenue. The NFRN has campaigned against any measures which may increase the volume of illicit trade, such as plain packaging. In addition, the NFRN has called for the Government, Trading Standards, Police and HMRC to do more to combat illicit trade. Counterfeit tobacco and alcohol are a particular concern to independent retailers as the proliferation of such products results in a substantial loss of sales for legitimate retailers as well as having serious health risks to consumers.
NFRN and Imperial Tobacco team up to fight illicit tobacco
The NFRN, one of Europe’s largest employers’ associations representing over 15,000 UK retailers, and leading UK FMCG manufacturer Imperial Tobacco are delighted to announce they have teamed up to help educate independent retailers and UK smokers about the growing trade in illegal tobacco.
50,000 anti-illicit trade (AIT) packs branded with Imperial’s award-winning Suspect it? Report it! campaign are being distributed to all retailers throughout the UK during January 2017. Each pack contains a range of in-store activation materials, including infographics, posters and stickers. These resources have been specifically created to raise awareness among retailers, their staff and adult smoker customers in understanding the multitude of threats to government, retail industry and society posed by the illicit tobacco trade.
Peter Nelson, AIT Manager, Imperial Tobacco comments: “Latest reports* suggest around 1 in 6 factory made cigarettes and 2 in 5 hand-rolled cigarettes smoked in the UK are of an illicit nature, which is among the highest in the EU. This illegal product can often be unregulated; it also threatens retailers’ livelihoods, brings criminal elements into local communities and deprives the Government of billions of pounds in much-needed tax revenue each year.
“With the full transition to standardised – or ‘plain’ – packaging on 20 May fast approaching, it is likely that tobacco manufacturers, enforcement bodies and retailers alike will have to contend with a increased threat from the illicit trade in the near future, so the release of these Suspect it? Report it! information packs comes at a particularly crucial time.
“We strongly believe that collaboration between government, industry and law enforcement is the only way to achieve long-term success, with all partners working together in a focused manner to achieve the Government’s objectives of not only reducing the illegal trade, but also helping restrict youth access to prohibited products.”
Paul Baxter, Chief Executive, NFRN adds: “The growing trade in illicit tobacco products is doing irreparable damage to both the independent retail sector and the communities that they serve.
“Independent retailers operate policies such as ‘Challenge 25’ and verify the age of their customers before selling them tobacco products but those behind the illicit trade make no such checks, happily selling their products to young people. But that’s not our only concern. The health and safety of people who smoke counterfeit cigarettes is seriously at risk from the highly unpleasant ingredients they can contain.
“This important campaign shows that independent retailers, manufacturers and the public can work together to fight against the criminal gangs who damage local businesses and communities by their continued trade in illicit tobacco products.
“By working with Imperial we aim to raise the profile of all the dangers associated with illicit tobacco, discourage the public from buying their products from illicit sources and encourage them to report suspicious activity to the police or trading standards. We will also be urging our members to get fully behind this scheme and to display the point of sale material prominently within their stores.”
If you would like to read more about the illicit trade, please visit the Suspect it? Report it! website at www.suspect-it-report-it.co.uk, or follow the campaign on Twitter at @suspect_report. NFRN members can obtain help and advice from NFRN Connect on 0800 121 6376, or from the NFRN website here
In the meantime, if you have any suspicions around the sale of illegal tobacco where you live, report it! Please act by contacting either the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000, NFRN Connect or your local Trading Standards/Police. Retailers can also contact their designated Imperial Tobacco sales representative.
Reminder to NFRN members – don’t forget to look out for your trade pack in your tote boxes.
The NFRN has joined forces with a host of industry associations representing more than 400,000 people across several sectors to fight against the Government’s proposed sugar tax.
The ‘Face the Facts, Can the Tax’ campaign is supported by a coalition of British businesses who have come together to highlight the damaging economic consequences of the tax and urge the Government to rethink the policy and focus instead on proven solutions that will address obesity.
The group includes soft drinks manufacturers, wholesalers, small shops, newsagents, restaurants, bars, and pubs. They are warning the tax will do nothing to tackle obesity, and risks causing thousands of job losses and higher prices for those who can least afford it.
“Education not legislation on sugar ” says NFRN
13 October 2016
The NFRN has reiterated its calls for education rather than regulation in its response to the government’s consultation on the proposed sugar tax.
In its submission, the NFRN has warned that instead of reducing instances of obesity, a tax on sugary soft drinks will only hit hard working independent retailers who are already reeling from higher costs arising from the newly launched National Living Wage, business rates and from complying with the tobacco display ban.
Chief Executive Paul Baxter said: “It has been calculated that the cost on individual independent retailers will be in the region of £8,100 each per year in lost sales as manufacturers pass on their increased costs. This is a cost that independent retailers cannot absorb and will have to pass onto consumers….hitting the poorest hardest.”
Mr Baxter also warned that sales and revenue losses could ultimately lead to job losses and even shop closures.
The NFRN reminded the government that in Mexico a soft drinks tax only reduced the daily sugar intake by six calories per person.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the UK experience will be any different,” Mr Baxter warned.
Instead, the NFRN said that consumers needed to be better educated into the effects of sugar and the alternatives available.
“Education must cover all aspects of the sugary food and drinks sector, not just soft drinks,” Mr Baxter concluded.
NFRN’s Day of Action against the sugar tax
27 September 2016
Nearly 2,000 independent retailers got behind the NFRN’s call for the government to rethink its plans for a sugar tax on sugary drinks.
Since the NFRN’s Day of Action against the proposed sugar tax on Friday September 16, almost 1,500 store owners have filled out a postcard to Chancellor Philip Hammond registering their objection to the proposal and saying no to the tax.
A further 459 have written to their MP, warning that the move will devastate their businesses while failing to tackle the UK’s obesity problems.
Posters stating that a potential 58p price increase on a two litre bottle of a sugary soft drink will cause shop closures and job losses have also gone up in thousands of stores nationwide.
NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter said: “While we understand that the government has got to get to grips with rising obesity levels, we believe the proposal for a sugar tax is flawed. That’s why thousands of independent retailers are joining our call for Chancellor Philip Hammond to reconsider and come up with a solution that will not threaten the survival of local independent shops.”
Twitter is a great way to get your voice heard, so make sure you follow the campaign on the NFRN Twitter page and by using the hashtag #canthetax. New to Twitter? Check out our Twitter Beginner’s Guide for all the basics.
Please help us get the government to face the facts and rethink its approach to tackling obesity.
For more information about the NFRN’s campaign against the sugar tax, visit nfrnonline.com/sugartax
In May 2015, PayPoint informed retailers that it was reducing the cap that applies to transaction commissions. The NFRN responded by referring this matter to its lawyers and are considering making a formal complaint about PayPoint to the Payment System Regulator (PRS) in an attempt to seek a full market investigation into the Over-the-Counter Payment and Collection Services market. A letter to energy regular, OFGEM, has also been posted and warns of the invidious situation that PayPoint retailers now find themselves in and calls for an immediate investigation.
The NFRN escalated its dispute against payment service provider, PayPoint, by urging its 9,000 members who operate terminals with them to write to their MPs asking them to raise concerns in Parliament about PayPoints decision to reduce the cap on retailer’s commissions. Independent retailers play a vital role in ensuring consumers have access to over the counter payment and collection services but it is inconceivable that they are expected to operate at a loss.
In letters to MPs, many retailers are considering removing terminals from their stores, denying vulnerable and elderly customers the opportunity to pay bills, top up keys for their electricity or gas metres or pick up their benefits.
Support for independent retailers and the High Street
Independent retailers are at the heart of the local community by offering a vital service through convenience retailing, payment services, news, and even postal services; which is why one of NFRN’s campaigns is to save the High Street and to protect the retail sector, by ensuring the cost of running your business does not overtake profit margins.
Town and country planning is a crucial tool of growth, as well as destruction of a business. Town centres must make measures for reliable and affordable parking near shops to encourage sustainable footfall and to keep the High Street alive.
Over regulation and an increase in operational costs, such as licences, and energy costs, are a huge factor in the reasons why retailers close their businesses for good.
The NFRN works hard on behalf of its members, building relationships with industry partners and key ministers and parliamentarians to ensure that the concerns of independent retailers are at the forefront of discussions and that they are successfully addressed.
Whether it was through the NFRN’s Parliamentary Receptions, responses to Government Consultations, our Budget 2016 submission or through members actively engaging with their MPs in their shops or at their surgeries; plans to relax Sunday trading hours was defeated in the House of Commons and recorded the first defeat to the Conservative Government, after 317 MPs voted against the proposal to allow councils to extend opening hours on Sundays through the Enterprise Bill.
However, this is still contested and is being monitored by NFRN Public Affairs and will always stand up for the independent retailer and make sure their voices are heard in Westminster and in the devolved Assemblies.
Independent retailers have faced a tough business climate during the financial uncertainty over the past few years. Given their relatively small size, our members are particularly affected by any changes to their trading conditions.
After extensive campaigns through Parliamentary receptions, meeting with Ministers, letter writing campaigns and a strong proposal put forward before the 2016 Budget, the NFRN’s campaign for a reduction in business rates met success. As of April 2017, more than 600,000 small businesses will be taken out of business rates all together. Rateable properties of less than 15,000 will be paying no rates at all, meaning a typical corner shop or newsagent will be paying no rates.
The NFRN challenged the Department of Health to think again about putting tobacco products in plain packs, our submission can be found here. We submitted concerns made by newsagents and convenience stores that the introduction of plain packaging will provide a boost to counterfeiters and the illicit market, which in turn has a negative impact not only on legitimate and responsible businesses, but on public health too.
Carrier Bag Levy
The carrier bag levy in England came into force in October 2015, following similar initiatives in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland where plastic bag usage has dropped significantly as a result.
The NFRN has always supported a carrier bag charge with the aim of reducing waste and protecting the environment. Unlike Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the levy was only applicable for large stores in England. Despite extensive lobbying efforts by the NFRN, including conversations with the coalition Government’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the then Minister for Water, Forestry, Rural Affairs and Resource Management, Dan Rogerson, smaller shops in England are excluded from making a charge for single use carrier bags.
The NFRN maintains that this is unnecessary, will confuse customers and lessen the impact on the environment that an all inclusive levy would have had. In December 2015, the NFRN submitted a ‘voluntary code of conduct’ for smaller shops to charge for single use carrier bags, this was submitted to DEFRA Minister, Rory Stewart.
Press for Reform
For far too long the news and magazine supply chain has been dominated by over-mighty publishers and wholesalers that exert their market share in a manner that alters the market itself.
In July 2011, the NFRN launched the ‘Press for Reform’ campaign, which lobbied Parliamentarians and the Office of Fair Trading to refer the news supply chain to the Competition Commission for a full market investigation. In October 2012, the Competition Appeal Tribunal dismissed a joint appeal from the NFRN and the ACS over the Office of Fair Trading’s decision not to order a review of the News industry.
NFRN launches Independent Retail Report
The NFRN has launched its Independent Retail Report 2017 at a parliamentary reception in the House of Commons. Read more
Welsh Assembly Reception – 4th April
On the 4th April the NFRN will be holding its Welsh Assembly Reception at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff Bay to mark the launch of our Independent Retail Report for Wales 2017. Read more
Scottish Parliamentary Reception – 16th May
On the 16th May the NFRN will be holding its Scottish Parliamentary Reception at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood to mark the launch of our Independent Retail Report for Scotland 2017. Read more
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The NFRN regularly responds to government consultations on behalf of its members.
Whether through the NFRN’s Parliamentary receptions, responses to government consultations, lobbying MPs, meeting with Ministers and Departments – Public Affairs is a crucial part of the NFRN in making sure our members have your voice heard.Paul Baxter
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