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Ensuring a sustainable and prosperous convenience industry in Scotland

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MSPs Praise Frontline Convenience Stores

MSPs have praised the vital ‘frontline’ role of Scotland's 44,000 convenience store staff in supporting communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Senior Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar has lodged a Parliamentary Motion which highlights the outstanding effort convenience stores have made in supporting vulnerable customers. The Motion has been endorsed by MSPs from across the political spectrum at Holyrood.

The Glasgow MSP said,

Shopkeepers in Scotland’s independent convenience stores are the unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic. They have worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable people are receiving essential groceries and other products, particularly in rural locations where they are often the only shopping option. Shopkeepers in independent stores are at the heart of their communities and are using their local knowledge to make sure vulnerable people are being looked after. When we applaud the key workers who are fighting the coronavirus on the frontline, let’s not forget the shopkeepers.”

The Scottish Local Shop Report shows that almost 2,000 of Scotland’s 5,000 convenience stores are providing lifeline services in rural parts of the country where there are no other nearby shops. Scottish Grocers Federation chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said,

“We are delighted that MSPs from all political parties have recognised the outstanding work being done by convenience retailers in ensuring that customers have access to essential groceries and vital services. More and more people are recognising that convenience stores have become the new emergency service."

A Message to our Retailers from Warburtons

This is an incredibly difficult time for people and businesses across the country and we are doing our best to bake and deliver as much food as possible, every single day.

But it isn’t easy, and we must also look after our own people. Our drivers are working harder and longer than ever before trying to get to as many stores as we can, but we just don’t have as many people as we would like to get to every customer we normally would serve.

As a company that prides itself on its direct to store delivery, this is a really difficult decision to make and one we haven’t taken lightly.

We are looking at other ways we can support our smaller customers and have improved the stock available in wholesalers for example, we will also do our best to ensure isolated rural communities are impacted as little as possible as well. As soon as we can change things, we will.

Financial Support for Businesses

As you know the Scottish government announced a package of support measures for business last week - no retailers will pay business rates for 2020/21. We are still awaiting further details on the 2 grant schemes (£10,000/£25,000) which were also announced. We will provide you with an update as soon as we have it.

Against the advice of SGF and other trade bodies, the government has allowed the 32 Local Authorities to decide on which jobs get the ‘key worker’ designation. Again we will provide clarity on this as soon as we have it.

The UK government has issued updated guidance for businesses. Within the main guidance the specific topics relevant to retailers in Scotland are:

  1. Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 
  2. Support for businesses through deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  3. Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees
  4. Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  5. Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service
  6. Insurance

 The full guidance can be accessed here. We will issue more detailed guidance for members on topics such as the Job Retention scheme as soon as we can. In the meantime please just let us know if you have any questions.

Crime and Local Shops

Convenience stores in Scotland continue to bear the brunt of retail crime. That is the clear message from the Scottish Grocers Federation as it launched its Retail Crime Report 2020. The report – based on a survey of five hundred stores -  is launched today (6th February) at the Federation’s annual retail crime conference. One hundred per cent of respondents had experienced shoplifting in the previous twelve months, with a massive ninety eight per cent experiencing shoplifting on a daily basis! This is entirely consistent with findings from previous SGF reports and shows that shoplifting is now essentially a pandemic which neither Police Scotland nor the judicial system are dealing with anywhere near adequately.

The crime report also shows that requests for identification in relation to age restricted products and a refusal of sale continue to be the man triggers for abuse and assault towards staff in-store. This comes at a time when the Scottish Parliament is considering new legislation which aims to give shop workers additional legal protection, particularly in relation to carrying out mandatory activities around age verification.

SGF chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said,

“our new report  - which is now backed up by five years’ worth of evidence – shows that shoplifting is now essentially out of control and the authorities have simply lost their grip on it. Overall this is contributing to a very stressful working environment for staff. There is an ever-growing list of legislation which has to be enforced and policed by staff in-store and this must be taking its toll on health and wellbeing. The Protection of Workers Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament is a step in the right direction and we urge MSPs to support it.“

Cheema also pointed out that neither the Scottish government nor Police Scotland collect any data on retail crime, something he described as a “shocking and unacceptable situation” which has undoubtedly contributed to a lack of effective action on this major problem.

The Scottish Parliament Economy Committee is currently taking evidence on the Protection of Workers Bill. SGF has been invited to appear before the Committee and give evidence directly on the 3rd March. The Scottish government is currently consulting on proposals for the mandatory age restriction of energy drinks.

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