A very high level meeting took place today (December 1) between Small Business and Retail Minister Paul Scully and a select delegation from the IRC (Independent Retailers Confederation), which included Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA.
The meeting was convened to give the Minister a greater understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on retailers, to seek reassurance that non-essential retailers would not be penalised if there had to be another lockdown, to push for change on matters such as business rates, reinforce the importance of independent retailers and ways of providing greater support as well as ensuring closer and clearer communication with the Government.
“It was a very significant meeting, and I was encouraged not only by Paul Scully’s willingness to listen, but also his openness to ideas as to how things can be improved, be it through a review of Business Rates through to an equivalent ‘eat out to help out’ scheme for retailers,” said Amanda.
Amanda was at the meeting with representatives from 13 other trade associations (which included Andrew Goodacre of BIRA, Meryl Halls of the Booksellers Association as well as Edward Woodall of the Association of Convenience Stores).
After a brief introduction, it was agreed that Amanda should open the meeting, as the seasonal nature of our industry has seen the retail lockdowns impact very significantly, seriously hampering sales of Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day as well as Christmas cards.
“I was able to demonstrate how Lockdown 2 has been particularly difficult for everyone and will be a real loss to our sector,” Amanda told PG Buzz. Paul Scully raised the subject of the online channel, which allowed Amanda to explain how the vast majority of greeting cards are bought in bricks and mortar stores.
The Minister acknowledged what great lengths non-essential retailers had gone to ensure their stores were Covid-safe as well as the contribution they bring to communities.
“He was very sympathetic to retailers’ pleas for an extension to the Business Rates holiday and was also open to suggestion as to how our Business Rates could be reviewed, accepting this as a matter of priority,” relayed Amanda.
The meeting was hailed a good starting point for real discussion with a follow up scheduled to take place at the end of January to discuss Christmas trading.
“I have met with the IRC every two weeks during this lockdown. The meeting with Paul Scully is just one of many examples of having a strength in numbers; of the GCA joining forces with like-minded associations and bodies to have our collective voice not only heard, but also to achieve progress that would have been highly unlikely acting alone,” said Amanda. “Good luck to all our retail members in England as they open up tomorrow, we’ll continue to fight for you behind the scenes!”
Top: While the meeting took place virtually the input will be shared with other MPS.