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Ensuring a sustainable and prosperous convenience industry in Scotland

Latest News

Chancellor Rejects Retailers Pleas Over 17.5% VAT Reinstatement

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has expressed disappointment at the Chancellors rejection of calls by the retail sector to delay the reinstatement of the 17.5% VAT to February 2010.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said:

“Retailers are disappointed the Chancellor has ignored their pleas to delay the reinstatement of the 17.5% VAT rate. The timing of the VAT increase, on the 1st January, represents the busiest trading period for retailers. In addition, both the 1st and 2nd of January 2010 are bank holidays in Scotland, when retail businesses are working with restricted staffing levels due to holidays. Applying these changes will increase costs and the level of administration for retailers at the worst possible time.

“Increased employment costs are one of the biggest threats for small shops. Raising national insurance contributions will undermine retailers ability to provide jobs in communities across Scotland.

“The Chancellors decision not to readjust the duty rates which were increased in 2008 to account for the decline in VAT is damaging both to consumers and retailers.

“Deferring the planned 1% rise in corporation tax will provide some welcome relief in amongst a report which does little to boost business for convenience store retailers.”

Alcohol Bill Requires More Detail

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) is concerned the uncertainty created by the Scottish Government’s new Alcohol Etc (Scotland) Bill, published today will stifle growth and inward investment in the Scottish convenience store sector. The Bill takes considerable enabling powers whilst providing little detail. As a result it is extremely difficult to determine the likely impact of the legislation on small shops, should the enabling powers be enforced.

John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said;

“This Bill would give the Scottish Government sweeping powers to impose legislation with little detail. SGF is concerned the lack of detail in the Bill will prohibit the Scottish Parliament from properly scrutinising measures which will have a huge impact on the trade and consumers.”

“Promotions benefit the vast majority of responsible adult consumers that buy alcohol in Scotland. It is particularly harsh of the Government to penalise those who drink responsibly at a time when there is increased pressure on household budgets. Furthermore this would place Scottish retailers at a disadvantage and have a damaging impact on their competitiveness. ”

Under 21s
“The Scottish Government continues to ignore public opinion and the will of the Parliament by continuing to pursue this policy. To impose this measure solely on off-sales will establish ridiculous anomalies. It penalises the vast majority of under 21s who consume alcohol responsibly. Retailers have learnt through bitter experience that devolving powers to local licensing boards leads to inconsistent practices from area to area. This Bill will allow licensing boards to decide the locality of a ban which could result in responsible retailers being unintentionally caught in the net with no appeal process other than a Judicial Review. This will disadvantage small shops that do not have the resources available to go to a review.”

Restrictions on Marketing Material
“It is the supermarkets who have been accused of running irresponsible promotions yet measures to prohibit alcohol marketing will play into the hands of the multiples and work against small retailers who cannot afford national newspaper, radio and TV advertising and rely on low cost options including window bills and fliers to advertise their promotions.”

Social Responsibility Levy
“The Bill provides no detail of how a social responsibility levy will be administered. SGF are concerned that it will be punitive and indiscriminate and will be an additional cost and burden for retailers already reeling from the increase in licensing fees introduced in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.”

Mandatory Challenge 21
“SGF members already operate Challenge 21 and many operate Challenge 25 policies in their stores, which goes beyond the requirements set out in the Bill. If the Scottish Government is really serious about this issue then this new measure must be more than just tokenism. They must root out the rogue retailers that flout the law and sell to under 18s. In addition, the Scottish Government must recognise that retail staff on the front line of preventing underage sales, often confronted by abusive and intimidating members of the public, require support from law enforcement officers.”

“If the Scottish Government is really serious about addressing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol they should enforce the existing legislation properly, develop specific interventions to target problem drinkers and start to address the underlying cultural issues which cause Scots to abuse alcohol through improved education.”

Tobacco and Primary Services (Scotland) Bill Proceeds to Final Stage

The final committee stage of the Tobacco and Primary Services (Scotland) Bill took place today, progressing potential legislation that would introduce a tobacco display ban along with tobacco proxy purchasing laws.

At present, it is not a criminal offence to buy tobacco products for minors. The Bill aims to establish Scottish laws on tobacco proxy purchasing and make it an offence for a person under the age of 18 to attempt to purchase tobacco. In addition, police will be given new powers which allow them to confiscate tobacco from under 18 year olds. If supported by the Scottish Parliament, these measures will bring tobacco legislation into line with alcohol laws. The Bill also seeks to introduce the following:

  • A registration scheme for retailers
  • Fixed penalty notices for retailers who sell cigarettes to under 18s
  • Banning orders to prevent retailers selling cigarettes if they continually flout the law

Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) Chief Executive, John Drummond said: “Much of this Bill is extremely damaging to retailers. However, moves to criminalising proxy purchasing would be welcome. Proxy purchasing tobacco for young people is immoral and should be illegal.

“The final Stage 3 debate is not likely to take place until January 2010. Over the next few weeks we will be encouraging members to support us in making one last ditch attempt to persuade MSPs that a display ban is not the right course of action.”

Supporting Scotland’s Food Industry

Some of Scotland’s leading convenience stores have signed up to the Retailers’ Charter in which they pledge to drive forward support for Scottish food and drink.

It was confirmed at today’s Convenience Store Summit in Edinburgh that sales of Scottish branded produce in convenience stores across Scotland have already increased by six per cent since 2007. Total retail sales of Scottish food and drink brands have gone up by one fifth across Scotland, England and Wales since 2007.

The Retailers’ Charter sets an agenda for collaborative work around the national food and drink policy.

Today’s boost to the industry coincides with the publication of a new report outlining how Scotland’s reputation as a land of food and drink can be enhanced.

Opportunities highlighted in the Food and Drink Key Sector Report include:

  • Scotland’s expertise in food science and life science research can be harnessed to increase consumer awareness of healthy produce
  • Carbon labels would help consumers identify Scottish produce and cut food miles
  • Reducing waste and packaging should play a part in consumer buying behaviour
  • Greater focus on food and drink provenance – as highlighted in ‘Recipe for Success’

Speaking after chairing today’s summit, Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead said:

“Scotland’s convenience stores generate annual sales of £3.2 billion. Although sales of Scottish produce at these stores have increased in recent years there is real potential to achieve even more. The number of shoppers buying locally produced food has almost doubled in the last three years to 27%, compared to 15% in 2006.

“I want to see our retailers making the most of the wonderful fresh seasonal ingredients and food suppliers that we have on our doorstep.

“On average convenience stores devote 20 per cent of floor space to fresh produce and the amount of shelf space for locally sourced food is up 10 per cent in the last year. Our new National Food and Drink Policy can help these figures soar even higher.

“Today’s summit was a fantastic opportunity to share best practice, concerns and future prospects for what is clearly a thriving sector. Through our national food and drink policy we have the tools to create a food and drink revolution. If everyone growing, making, buying or selling food and drink in Scotland can pull in the same direction we will achieve a healthier, wealthier, more environmentally sustainable Scotland.”

John Drummond, Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, said:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the role of the convenience store sector within the grocery sector and their willingness to engage with the most senior figures in the Scottish convenience store sector.

“It is important that small shops, which provide a vital service within communities across the length and breadth of Scotland, have the right conditions for sustained growth. Today’s summit is an opportunity to explore how we can work in partnership with the Scottish Government to continue to deliver the best for Scottish customers.”

Additional Companies signing up to the Retailers’ Charter following today’s Summit:

C.J. Lang and Son Ltd
Drummore Stores
Khalsa Retail Ltd (T/A SPAR)
Scotmid Co-operative
David Sands Ltd
Landsburgh Bros Ltd (T/A SPAR)
Clydebank Co-operative Society Ltd
G & G Knowles (T/A NISA Local)
Broadway Convenience Store (T/A Premier)
Botterills Convenience Stores Ltd (T/A SPAR)
The Co-operative Group, Scotland
Abdul Majid & Son Ltd (T/A SPAR)

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