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BRC welcomes 'Small shops in the high street' report
Jul '08
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) broadly welcomes the report of the Conservative's Commission into 'Small shops in the high street', published (Thursday), though the BRC is disappointed that some of retailers' major contributions to local communities have been ignored.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “The BRC supports small shops; they are a crucial part of our rich retail mix. We want thriving town centres. The presumption that small retailers are in a terminal decline caused by large retailers is wrong.

“Where they are in difficulty, it is mainly about costs and access not suburban competition. In particular, the burden of regulation falls disproportionately hard on small businesses.

“Town centres should be supported by making them more attractive, more accessible and safer places to shop. It is no more helpful to attempt to support the high-street by undermining the appeal of competing locations than it would be by undermining online retailing.

“We welcome many of the Commission's proposals and applaud their decision to drop earlier anti-customer plans, such as forcing charging for suburban shop car parks.”

Of the six main recommendations made by the report, the BRC largely agrees with the following:

• Promoting town centre management to make high streets more attractive places.
• The Commission is right to call for town centres to become easier places to shop and do business. It is too focussed on price as the only aspect of competition between retailers ignoring service and range which are often keys to success for smaller businesses.
• Promotion of effective partnerships to tackle anti-social behaviour, retail and business crime
• Retail and other businesses should be treated as significant partners in the local community and involved in setting local crime priorities and assessing police performance.
• Ensuring parking facilities support rather than deter shopping trips
• Local authorities should enforce parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably – car parking should be treated as a customer service not simply a source of revenue through charges and penalty notices.
• Reviewing business rates and rent arrangements
• We strongly support the removal of business rate supplements or at least greater protection for businesses. The BRC has been at the forefront of campaigning for monthly rental payments rather than quarterly.

But, while the Commission made some reference to the support from retail chains for some town centre management partnerships, it ignored their contributions to:

• Providing funding and expertise and supporting partnerships such as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and crime initiatives, including providing volunteer officers to town centres and retailing areas.
• Acting as anchor stores thereby increasing customer numbers for neighbouring small and independent stores.
• Providing car parking and other facilities, including space for small retailers and even accommodation for local police officers.

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