Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Independent Convenience Stores

Sub-Groups Remit & Membership

Sub-Group 1: Convenience Stores and the Economy

In 2015 the SGF Scottish Local Shop Report showed that there were 5,300 convenience stores in Scotland – more per head of population than in the rest of the UK – these stores provided over 41,000 jobs and the contribution to Scotland’s economy in Gross Value Added was some £543 million.

  • They key issue for the independent convenience store industry in Scotland is what we may term as the ‘cumulative impact’ of increasing costs and the increases burden of legislative compliance. To provide context some examples of this include:
  • The introduction of the National Living Wage and consistently above-inflation rises in the National minimum Wage are increasing staff costs across the convenience store sector. Almost 80% of staff in convenience stores are in the over-24     year old range – this is the age group that is impacted by the National Living Wage – and as such this is having a significant impact on salary costs.
  • The Uniform Business Rate (poundage) has continually increased since inception in 1995 from 43.2 to 47.1 pence for the basic rate and to 48.2pence for those businesses paying the higher rate.
  • The introduction of ‘Auto-enrolment’ for workplace pensions in 2012 is now impacting on small business, with the final ‘staging date’ to comply being 1st April 2017.
  • In 2013 the DWP abolished the percentage Threshold Scheme. This had allowed employers to claim back a proportion of Statutory Sick Pay. This is no longer available and retailers’ must now meet the full cost of SSP.
  • In terms of legislative compliance, if alcohol licensing is used as an example, there have been 5 major piece of alcohol legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament since 2009. Staff have to undertake mandatory training, managers must have a personal licence (which has to be refreshed every 5 years) and an age verification policy has to be in place.

The Scottish Parliament has additional powers on key areas of taxation – these must be assessed carefully to ensure they have a positive rather than a negative impact on retail.

This sub-group will investigate and analyse the cumulative impact and make policy recommendations via reports and briefing papers for the CPG itself and for MSPs. The PhD research about to be undertaken by Stirling University will feed into this sub-group. it is anticipated that the group will begin work in January 2017, output will include at least one presentation to the CPG during the course of 2017.

 

Sub-Group 2: Retail Crime

The Cross Party Group will look at potential legislative solutions to reducing retail crime and giving additional legal protection to shop workers and thus create a safer in-store environment, against the background that as demonstrated by SGF’s unique Retail Crime Survey in Scotland:

  • 35% of stores experienced violence against staff in Scotland
  • 67% of the stores experienced staff abuse sales refused
  • 41% of stores experienced staff abuse at least once a week when asking for proof of age

The bill would create a new offence of assaulting a retail worker. The importance of such protection cannot it is suggested be overstated against the background that through various changes in Scottish communities the retail store is increasingly the significant heart of the local community and indeed reflects the important role retailers play in their local communities and indeed others such as the SRC have in various submissions pointed out that  retailers in Scotland make a massive social contribution through their community projects referencing research showing that the public rate retailers as the top sector for getting involved in their local communities.

The definition of retail worker is long established - see for example predecessor legislation of the Wages Act 1986 s 2 and 3 and the Employment Rights Act 1996 s17 and 18 and indeed it would be recommended that to avoid artificial issues that the protection should apply to all retail workers affording protection to those individual regardless of whether they are technically regarded as an employee) and whose employment involves dealing with members of the public.  

Such a bill would be a proportionate response to ongoing levels of crimes against such workers affording additional but targeted support to retail workers who provide an increasingly critical and unique role in the communities across Scotland.

Illicit trade is also another key issue for retail crime.

This sub group will look at  the potential for bringing forward legislation and at associated issues such as illicit trade. 

 

 Sub-Group 3: Convenience Stores and Communities

In 2015 87% of convenience store retailers were involved in community engagement activities. The key areas of involvement were:

1.      Collecting money for a national or local charity

2.      Providing funding or in kind support to a community event

3.      Providing sponsorship to a local sports team or other community activity

4.      Community council or local business association meeting or project.

Convenience stores also make a major contribution to the local economy. The Scottish Grocers Federation has developed a PhD-level research programme to begin to analyse the significance of this contribution – this will feed into the work of the Cross Party Group and be provide extremely valuable research findings for MSPs.

 Investigating how to create an eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable convenience industry will be a key focus for this CPG. There is real scope to look at how efficient the industry is in terms of food waste, reducing omissions.

 Convenience stores themselves are important community assets, providing important services to local people. Bill payments services could be an important area of investigation for the CPG: it is becoming increasingly costly for retailers to provide these services and non-continuation of these services would present real challenges to local people.