Westminster launch for NFRN Retail Report 2018

To highlight the issues affecting independent retailers, former NFRN member Martin Vickers MP hosted a parliamentary reception in the House of Commons on 20 February to support the launch of our 2018 Independent Retail Report.
NFRN Retail Report Launch

The NFRN Independent Retail Report brings together a range of issues that impact on retailers and their businesses, whether environmental concerns, lack of fairness, or the very real threats of violence and abuse. The report is divided into four sections, each exploring different areas that impact on independent retailers on a daily basis and threaten their livelihood.

The first section looks at the issue of retail crime, a term that encompasses a wide range of offences such as shop theft, violence and abuse of shop-workers, robbery, fraud, and trading with illicit goods. Many independent retailers live in fear of becoming a victim of crime while having little or no confidence in the support they will receive from their local police or courts. Crime rates are rising whilst many police and crime commissioners are openly stating that due to financial constraints, incidents such as shop-thefts will not be investigated anymore.

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At the same time, verbal abuse and physical assaults on independent retailers are drastically increasing. NFRN members are responsible retailers who do all they can to ensure that age-restricted products like alcohol and tobacco do not fall into the hands of minors yet, for this they are often assaulted. Therefore, the NFRN is calling for the creation of a specific offence for violence and abuse against shop workers who have simply asked for identification before selling a customer an age-restricted product. Similarly, the NFRN urges the police and crime commissioners to take the whole issue more seriously and for magistrates and judges to give sentences that match the gravity of the crime committed. No crime is ever too small and police cannot ignore incidents of shop theft simply because of the cost.

Another area of concern is the burgeoning illicit market. According to latest statistics the Treasury lost around £31.6bn of tax revenue because of the illicit market in spirits, beer, and wine, cigarettes, rolling tobacco and diesel between 2010-11 and 2014-2015. In the Independent Retail Report, the NFRN calls for a thorough investigation of the scale of the black market and the damage this has on legitimate traders’ businesses. Furthermore, it also urges the police, the Border Force and HMRC to work more closely together when sales of illicit tobacco are reported.

The second section, market fairness, engages with the increasing inequalities characterising the retail sector. For those retailers selling newspapers and magazines, rising costs, falling sales and poor service from their wholesalers makes their trade all but impossible. Despite record consumer prices, Newspaper Retail margins have dropped by 1/3 and independent retailers struggle to survive in this toxic climate. Publishers are still permitted to offer non-competitive and lucrative contracts to just two principle wholesalers, who control exclusive and vast geographical areas. Wholesalers subsequently have total power over the carriage charges they enforce onto their retailer customers, and each is further reducing the retailers’ profits through regular and unwarranted carriage charge increases, often by ludicrous and unprecedented amounts. To create a more level playing field, the NFRN calls for a review into the news wholesale distribution network as this currently operates as a duopoly.

While on the subject of market fairness, the NFRN takes the opportunity to express its support for a UK-wide deposit return scheme and the introduction of a minimum unit pricing. Independent retailers want to do their bit to protect the environment and pride themselves on being at the forefront of tackling anti-social behaviour arising from alcohol consumption. Minimum unit pricing is a good step forward in helping to cut consumption among those at risk from heavy drinking and protecting convenience store retailers and their staff from verbal and physical abuse from those who have got drunk on pocket money priced alcohol.

The third section highlights the issues regulatory changes in employment and administration processes have caused. The Independent Retail Report highlights the administrative burdens and costs independent retailers face through the increased living wage and the introduction of auto-enrolment. Whilst the NFRN is sympathetic to calls to increase the National Living and National Minimum Wage, many independent retailers cannot easily absorb these increased costs which have resulted in a hindrance to their business growth. The NFRN, therefore, calls for a review into the financial burdens placed on independent retailers through annual increases in the national living wage and following the introduction of auto-enrolment.

Finally, the NFRN raises the issue of customer access to shops and calls for compensation for local businesses that suffer financially from local road works as well as better and affordable parking to encourage shoppers back to the high street.

All the issues highlighted in the Independent Retail Report impact on NFRN members and jeopardise their businesses.

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Download the NFRN’s Independent Retail Report 2018 here

Read about our Independent Retail Report for Scotland 2018 here

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Pictures of the event

More pictures from the reception can be found on the NFRN Facebook page.

 

Speeches

Read Linda Sood's Speech

 

National President Linda Sood spoke at the launch of the NFRN’s Independent Retail Report 2018. You can read her speech in full below.

 

As National President of the NFRN and on behalf of my 15,000 colleagues in the UK and Ireland I would like to welcome you to the launch of our Independent Retail Report for 2018.

 

Our sponsor for today’s reception is Martin Vickers MP and I am truly grateful to him for his kind support.

 

Thanks, too, to every MP and minister in attendance this afternoon and to our industry guests.

 

And I must thank my NFRN colleagues who have travelled from all corners of the UK and flown across the Irish Sea to be here today.

 

The independent retail sector is hugely important.

 

We are the backbone of society.

 

We are the engines of the economy.

 

The contribution we make to our local communities is immense.

 

But, as our Independent Retail Report for 2018 shows we are under threat from all sides.

 

Speak to any and every NFRN member in this room and they will tell you they have experienced both the highs and lows of being an independent retailer.

 

The trading environment that we operate in is fiercely competitive.

 

Sales of our traditional products such as newspapers and magazines continue to fall, while our margins are slashed and the service we receive from our news wholesaler can at times leave little to be desired.

 

Our operating costs go upwards, with annual minimum wage increases and, more recently, the introduction of pension auto enrolment.

 

Is it any wonder that many small shop owners are finding it difficult to stay afloat?

 

Sadly, too many independent retailers live in fear of becoming a victim of crime while having little or no confidence in the support they will receive from their local police or courts.

 

Meanwhile, the growing popularity of illicit tobacco and alcohol is ravaging the businesses of legitimate traders, while threatening the health of those who consume them.

 

That’s why we want your help.

 

In our 2018 Independent Retail Report we have outlined nine actions that need to be taken to ensure that independent retailers survive – and hopefully – thrive.

 

NFRN members are responsible retailers who do all they can to ensure that age restricted products like alcohol and tobacco do not fall into the hands of minors.

 

Yet for this – at best – we are pilloried and at worst can even be assaulted – either verbally or physically.

 

So we want a specific offence to be created for violence and abuse against shop workers who have simply asked for identification before selling a customer an age restricted product.

 

And while on the subject of retail crime we want the government, police, and police and crime commissioners to take the whole issue more seriously.

 

And for magistrates and judges to hand out sentences that match the gravity of the crimes committed.

 

We want the police to recognise that shop theft cannot be downgraded.

 

This is a significant and growing cost to independent retailers.  Because of this it is also one of the biggest threats to NFRN members’ businesses and to their livelihoods.

 

No crime is ever too small and police cannot ignore incidents of shop theft simply because of the cost.

 

The burgeoning illicit market also needs to be looked at.

 

According to latest statistics the Treasury lost out to the tune of £2.5 billion during 2016 and 2017 through sales of illicit cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco.

 

So we want the scale of the black market to be investigated and a true record obtained of the damage this has on legitimate traders’ businesses.

 

We also want police, the Border Force and HMRC to work more closely together when sales of illicit tobacco are reported.

 

For those retailers selling news and to combat problems caused by rising costs, falling sales and poor service we want a review into the news wholesale distribution network as this currently operates as a duopoly. Hopefully, a more level playing field will be created as a result.

 

A review is also urgently required into the financial burdens placed on independent retailers through annual increases in the national minimum wage and the Living Wage, and following the introduction of auto-enrolment.

 

We agree that more must be done to protect the environment and welcome the introduction of a deposit return scheme but it is critical that an industry solution must be found that is acceptable to all.

 

By the same token, minimum unit pricing is a good step forward in helping to cut consumption among those at risk from heavy drinking and protecting convenience store retailers and their staff who all too often face verbal and physical abuse from those who have got drunk on pocket money priced alcohol.

 

Finally, we want compensation for local businesses that suffer financially from local roadworks and better and affordable parking to encourage shoppers back to the high street.

 

All the issues that I have highlighted and which are detailed in our Independent Retail Report impact on NFRN members and jeopardise their businesses.

 

Each and every one of them is of huge importance to us.

 

Your presence here today demonstrates that you care about independent retailers and you care about our survival.

 

So please take time to chat with the independent retailers here to hear first-hand what it is like to run a small shop in 2018.

 

And when back at your desks please take a moment to read our Independent Retail Report fully and consider how you can lend your voice and support to help NFRN members everywhere.

 

Next year sees our Federation celebrating 100 years since its unification.  That’s a long time to be in existence.

 

But with your support the NFRN can celebrate its centenary and then another 100 years.

 

A strong independent network needs a strong Federation and we want the NFRN and its many thousands of members to still be going strong in 200 years time.

 

So make these issues your concerns too.

 

Throw your support behind the UK’s independent retailers.

 

You know our challenges – please help us overcome them.

 

Thank you.  I will now hand over to Martin Vickers MP to say a few words.

If you require any further information about the report please email publicaffairs@nfrn.org.uk

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