“With 94% of greeting cards bought in bricks and mortar stores it is important that we work with organisations supporting retailers, and look at ways we can support activities that contribute to the health of our High Streets,” Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA told PG Buzz fresh from a high powered meeting with the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC).
The IRC represents over 100,000 UK independent retailers and is working to create a growing retail network, committed to the development and sharing of best practice as part of a High St regeneration project. It also provides a lobbying platform to increase the profile and voice of independent retailing within Government and Parliament.
Amanda was invited to the meeting to join top executives from a number of other trade associations, including the Booksellers Association, Association of Convenience Stores, Association of Cycle Traders, National Craft Butchers, Craft Bakers Association and the Association of Town and City Management, all of which share interest in protecting and improving the nation’s high streets, especially for independent retailers. The meeting was chaired by Mark Walmsley, chief executive of ActSmart.
“With greeting cards being sold in so many different types of retailers, I was warmly welcomed into the group,” said Amanda. “It makes absolute sense that the GCA adds its voice to an already strong chorus that has access to government and the potential to make a real difference for retailers, confronting issues such as business rates, parking and investigating other ways of improving the retail landscape.”
As part of its High St regeneration project the IRC is currently looking to identify ‘beacon towns’ where there are strong local communities who are working well to support local businesses.
“I know that within the greeting card sector we have some great indie movers and shakers that have already contributed to making a difference in their respective localities. It would be great to hear from those who would like to put their town forward to become part of this programme,” urged Amanda. (Amanda can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org)
By being part of the IRC, the GCA will also be able to feed into its lobbying platform, increasing the profile and voice of independent retailing within Government, notably via the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group (APPSSG), chaired by Ruth George MP. This government organisation is focused on supporting the development of the independent retail sector in the UK and was set up by a cross party group of MPs to raise awareness among Parliamentarians of a broad range of issues including business rates, retail crime, planning reform and changes to the high street. The APPSSG provides opportunities for members of Parliament to register their interest in small shop issues and learn more about the work that small shops do and the policy challenges that they face.
As part of her mission to further help the plight of greeting card retailers (a growing number of whom are now a member of the GCA) Amanda also recently met with Andrew Goodacre, ceo of bira (British Independent Retailers Association) which is also a member of the IRC.
“bira has already made great strides in making a tangible difference on the business rates front for independent retailers. Achieving an audience with MPs is no mean feat and to get a result by reducing the threshold is even more impressive,” says Amanda. “It is important that the GCA works with organisations, such as IRC and bira that are supporting all sectors of retail,” she adds.
Top: A graphic that appears on ActSmart’s website. Founded by Mark Walmsley, chair of the IRC, ActSmart is a business support organisation for specialist retailers,