Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Does the government value retail in the UK?

Retail seems like a business of the past for many. With the move online and other high-tech businesses taking a hold of the UK economy, it is easy to forget the contribution that retail makes. You can ask does the government value retail at times. The fact that there will be a massive rate hike for retailers, among other businesses, in the next assessment means that more brick and mortar retailers will face a stark choice -

  • Put up their prices
  • Try to cut costs elsewhere
  • Stop trading

You are right to ask yourself does the government value retail when it puts so many in jeopardy. It isn’t a choice that anyone wants to make, especially the independent retailers that I know make up a large part of my readership. The bigger boys might be able to cut a cost or two, or even absorb the cost in lower profits, but the smaller players are often working to the bare bones as it is. Another hefty cost can make a massive difference.

It is a question of priority

The current state of the economy and the growing budget deficit necessitate action on many fronts. As a nation, we can’t live beyond our means for a prolonged period of time. There is only disaster in that as we have seen from the economies of -

  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Portugal

And retail has to take its fair share of the pain. When public sector workers have seen their pay frozen for 7 years, then we know that there are few pennies left in the jar. But it all feels like retail has dropped down the list of priorities for the government and modern society. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, George W Bush was asked what ordinary Americans should do. His answer was “keep spending,” as the economy needs a healthy set of retail, leisure and hospitality spending to keep moving forward. The same is true in the UK, so why doesn’t the government do more to protect retail jobs?

Is retail important to society?

Does the government value retail in the UK? Well, we don’t really value it at all. In other economies, retail is seen as a viable career choice. The support and raining needed to be very good at it is given. People are valued. In our country, it is seen as a job for part-time mums and those that can’t get a job elsewhere. In order to produce better results, we need better inputs. Retail at university isn’t something that should be scoffed at. Politicians are talking of productivity in louder terms all the time, but we don’t seem to have a strategy to make this happen. I disagree with the American way of operating, where they strip out all costs and deliver an inferior service to customers, but some efficiency in the way that people operate would make a massive difference. You can ask does the government value retail but the issue runs deeper than that. How about the next time you go into a shop (make it local please!) that you work with the retailer and value what they do for our economy. They might not be there the next time you go back.

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