Bira CEO: “We urge indie retailers to reach out to local candidates and share the changes they want to see”

Andrew Goodacre

Written by Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre

The prime minister has surprised many of us with his call for a snap election on 4 July. While this date was unexpected, the move does at least stop all the speculation that would have only increased if it was left until last in the year.

This is obviously an opportunity for associations such as Bira to put forward its own ideas for the various political parties to include in their manifestos. We do know that when MPs talk to their constituents in the build-up to voting day, the high street is often mentioned. The general public still value their local high street and these prospective MPs would do well to listen to what they are being told.

From Bira’s perspective we would urge indie retailers to reach out to their local candidates and tell them what positive changes you would like to see to help businesses on high streets. When we speak to our members, these are their top seven priorities:

  1. Reduce – or preferably remove – business rates. Bira was instrumental behind the introduction of the retail discount, and now we want to see the 75 per cent reduction made permanent. We would also like to see the multiplier reduced to £0.35 in the pound
  2. Increase economic growth to improve consumer confidence and spending. Inflation has fallen but prices remain high, so Bira would like to see plans that bring about economic growth in a sustainable way
  3. Continue to invest in high streets around the country, with decision makers consulting with independent retailers. Millions of pounds have been committed to improve town centres and high streets – this must be maintained and accelerated. We would like to see safe, diverse, vibrant high streets created and readily accessible for all customer groups
  4. Make funding accessible to encourage smaller retailers to invest in environmental sustainability and technology
  5. Reduce the cost burden of running a high street business. In recent times we have seen sharp increases in energy, supply chains and national minimum wage. For energy we need more flexible commercial contracts. For National Minimum Wage increases (and small retailers want to pay their staff a fair wage), we would like to see the employer’s NI allowance increased to offset the impact of such rises 
  6. Tackle retail crime, which has become a real problem for many shops. Steps have been taken to address the growing concerns and the focus on this issue must continue. Bira wants to see more police presence on high streets and better protection for the staff and owners
  7. Review the Landlord and Tenant Act so that tenants have better protection and more certainty to invest. Plus, we’d like to see a complete removal of the upward-only rents stipulation

There are of course many other issues that concern the small retailer, but these are the main issues we hear from our members. My message to shop owners is to remember that you are constituents too – I urge you to engage with your local candidates.

The election is an opportunity to ‘raise the voice’ of the smaller retailer. The election is on 4 July – American Independence Day. Bira will be working hard to make it Independents Day!