Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk has pledged full government backing to the nation’s ”lifeline shops”.
Speaking to the Association of Convenience Stores, Mr Prisk described them as a vital service for the elderly.
He warned against overlooking the crucial role the army of small shopkeepers across the country plays not only economically but also socially - offering a friendly face and social hub to local communities, and especially older people.
The minister pointed to research suggesting that around a quarter of elderly people use their local shop, often a convenience store, every day.
Convenience stores represent:
- almost 40% of all rural shops
- over a third of shops in urban areas
- a quarter of all shops in the suburbs
Mark Prisk said:
“In the age of supermarkets and online retail it’s easy to forget that convenience stores make up more than quarter of all shops. Yet they are not just an important part of the economy. For many people their local shop is also a lifeline. Whether they’re used for daily supplies or the occasional pint of milk, they are an essential part of daily life.
“It’s why this government is introducing measures specifically designed to support convenience stores. That means reforming the planning system, easing the financial pressures with business rate support, and offering practical ways to attract new custom, all in order to keep this vital local resource intact.”
Government support to convenience stores
Mr Prisk acknowledged the new economic challenges traditional shops now face, especially the changing way that people shop - whether online or in out-of-town retail outlets.
But he also highlighted some of the key actions the government is taking to help them.
- the government’s work to cut the deficit by a quarter in 2 years, which has kept interest rates lower for longer
- new changes to the planning system to ensure that existing town centres should be the first preference for new retail facilities
- expert support and a multi-million pound fund for Portas Pilots and Town Team Partners will encourage strong and bold local leadership to create competitive high streets
- doubled small business rates relief and a 20% reduction of corporation tax are helping smaller firms manage their bills
- a delayed business rate revaluation, providing a more stable business environment and preventing an increase in rates for around 800,000 premises
- plans to help town centres adapt to changing demands, making it easier to convert empty offices into homes and bringing people back into the town centre