BRC launch a ‘Manifesto for Retail’

2023 was a challenging year for consumers, with the ONS showing that retail sales volumes fell by 2.8% on the previous year, only a slight improvement on the 3.9% drop in 2022. Retail volumes are now lower than they were in 2019.

This matters. Retail is the ‘everywhere economy’, with a presence in every village, town and city in the UK. Retail is the largest private sector employer, providing 3m direct jobs, and 2.7m more in the supply chain in the UK. In one-fifth of UK constituencies, it accounts for more than a third of jobs. This size, scale and reach puts the industry in a unique position to make a significant contribution to public policy goals.

As we enter an election year, we need fresh thinking from all political parties as to how they will work with the retail industry to help maximise its contribution to develop a policy, regulatory and tax environment which enables retailers to go further, faster, and work with the industry to realise a shared vision for the future, to the benefit of consumers, the economy and the environment.

The BRC has now launched its Manifesto for Retail, “Accelerating Investment in the Everywhere Economy”, laying out that vision for a better retail future: a net zero, digitally transformed industry which provides higher skilled, better paid jobs and an improved shopping experience for customers. To help realise this vision, three major fixes are needed:

  • More coordinated approach to tax and regulation: The cost burden on retail is rising with the recent Autumn Statement alone increasing costs by £4bn. We need a plan for the industry that recognises the cumulative burden of government policy and the impact this has on investment and growth.
  • Jobs: retail jobs are becoming more digital and higher skilled, and skills policy needs to evolve so the industry can train its workforce for new roles. This means reform to the Apprenticeship Levy so funds can be used to meet a wider range of training needs, including short courses, pre-employment training, and backfilling roles. As it stands, approximately half of retail’s estimated £250m levy contribution goes unspent, because it can’t be spent on the training the industry needs.
  • Net zero and the circular economy: policies are needed to support retailers’ investment in the tech we need to get to net zero. And with recycling rates in the UK languishing at just 44%it is vital that new waste and resources regulation provides meaningful improvements to recycling rates and the use of recyclable materials, without unnecessarily raising costs for consumers.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The UK has one of the most developed retail offerings in the world, employing three million people and playing a key role in every community in the country. As political parties gear up for the next election, we need a different way of working with government so that we can use the industry’s size, scale and reach to deliver more.

“That means removing the blockages which hold the industry back, preventing it reaching its full potential. It’s time to support the upskilling of workers and accelerate our journey to net zero, while finding ways to address any unnecessary burdens on the industry and its sixty million customers.

“By delivering a more business-friendly approach to retail, the industry can deliver on its own vision – a net zero, digitally transformed industry which provides higher skilled, better paid jobs and more investment in local communities. It’s time to unleash the industry’s size, scale and reach to drive greater positive change.”

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