SGF is lobbying hard for local shop retailers on the issues that affect them most.
Click on the different issues listed on the right hand side to read more about the work we do in these areas.
You may have seen some coverage in the broadcast and print media about a threat that retailers could be sued by employees or customers for displaying ‘lads magazines.’
‘Legal advice’ has apparently been provided by barristers to two campaigning organisations, UK Feminista and Object. The legal advice suggests that under the Equality Act 2010, retailers could face court action from either employees (or customers) if individuals feel sexually harassed or discriminated against for being asked to handle, see or sell these titles.
SGF is working with colleagues at ACS to obtain and study this ‘legal advice’.
Any prospect of court action has to be considered in the specific context of the employee (or customer), the concerns they raise and the actions of the retailer. Employees, for example, would have had to raise the issue with the employer and their concerns would then need to have been deliberately ignored or otherwise not acted upon for any legal action to be justified.
Given the current level of media interest, SGF members are asked to be particularly vigilant around this issue.
NFRN has developed a code of practice for the display of these publications, which we would recommend that all responsible retailers adopt.
Plain Packaging (Tobacco)
The UK Department of Health published a consultation on “Standardised packaging of tobacco products” on 16 April.
The consultation does not recommend any particular policy outcome and invites views from all parties. It invites comments on the outline proposal for standardised packaging, and suggestions for alternative packaging options. However, the Department of Health (DH) has commissioned an evidence review through the Public Health Research Consortium which was funded by DH. This research strongly favours introducing generic packaging.
The suggested approach to standardised packaging used in the consultation is very restrictive, it covers the colour and font used for all external and internal packaging for tobacco products, and on individual tobacco products themselves. In addition to regulating the appearance of tobacco packaging, the impact assessment indicates that limiting or standardising pack sizes may also be considered.
The consultation suggests that standardised packaging would not be required during the course of business solely with the tobacco trade (i.e. not on product outers used in cash and carry and wholesale, where no sale to the public takes place). The consultation recognises that there may be a case to delay any decision until further information, such as evidence from Australia, becomes available.
SGF opposes the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products believing that it will have a detrimental imact on responsible retailers of legal tobacco products due to an increase in illicit and cross-border trade and by creating additional and unwelcome burdens on retailers. All of this when there is no robust evidence base to support claims that it will reduce the prevalence of youth smoking or aide those wishing to quit.
The consultation document and other information can be accessed here
The Scottish Government is expected to seek views on the mandatory charging of carrier bags this year and it is now clear that this will form part of a wider Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources consultation.
Mandatory charging schemes exist in a number of European countries including Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Norway and the Nerthlands and the policy is now established in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Welsh and Northern Irish schemes both set a floor, or minimum, price at which the charge has to be set. In Wales this is 5p but in Northern Ireland the charge will be 5p for the first year of implementation from 2013 and then 10p from 2014 onwards.
Unlike the Norther Irish scheme where retailers will be obliged to forward the revenue generated from the charge to the NI Department of Enivronment, in Wales retailers can retain the revenue and under a voluntary agreement donate the proceeds to local and charitable causes. Retailers must make the first year’s figures for bag reduction available by the end of May.
A substantial number of SGF members already charge for carrier bags and many donate the proceeds to good causes. SGF supports, in principle, the introduction of mandatory charging and have offered our support to the Scottish Government in developing the proposals. We will be participating fully in the consultation putting forward our views and proposals for how the policy would best work to support convenience stores.
National Loan Guarantee Scheme
The National Loan Guarantee Scheme (NLGS) was launched on 20 March 2012 and will help businesses access cheaper finance by reducing the cost of bank loans under the scheme by 1 percentage point.
In order to benefit from this scheme, businesses with a turnover of not more than £50 million should apply for loans at a participating bank.
Participating banks include Barclays, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB, NatWest, RBS and Santander. Aldermore has also agree, in principle, to join the scheme.
Members can access more information about the scheme, incuding how to apply and the loan products available, by clicking here.
Click on Scottish 2012-13 Business Rates Deferral Scheme for more information and an application form.
In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor confirmed that the increase in 2012-13 business rates bills for businesses in England and Wales would be based on the 5.6 percent increase arising from September’s irregularly high RPI multiplier.
Disappointingly the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP, followed suit and confirmed on 8 December that the 2012-13 business rates poundage will be 45p meaning a 5.6% increase next April in Scottish business rates.
Given that this is an exceptionally difficult period for the retail sector with falling sales, faltering consumer confidence and considerable increases in overhead costs, SGF saw this as a missed opportunity.
The Scottish Government has already signalled, on numerous occasions, its desire to stimulate economic growth through cutting corporation tax – an economic lever over which it currently has no control. This was, therefore, an opportunity for the Scottish Government to apply the same principle to business rates – a lever over which they do have control.