ACS calls on government to support rural shops
The Association of Convenience Stores has called on the government to help secure the future of the UK’s 19,128 rural shops, allowing then to continue to provide essential services such as Post Office, for customers that would otherwise be isolated.
The report reveals that rural shops are often the only place where customers in their local area can get essential goods and services and yet they are facing rising costs in many areas of their business.
The ACS has submitted recommendations to Government including: Producing a dedicated plan to ensure that the Government keeps its manifesto pledge to sustain 3,000 rural post offices; Changing the business rates system so that rural petrol stations can benefit from rural business rate relief, not just small rural convenience stores; Addressing the lack of fast mobile data coverage in rural communities and delivering high speed broadband for rural stores.
ACS chief executive James Lowman, said: “Rural shops are facing rising costs in many areas of their business, including increases in wage rates for staff, revisions to the business rates valuation that penalize investment, and an uncertain future for the thousands of stores that run post offices in isolated areas. For rural stores, they have to deal with these issues while also being hampered by a lack of fast mobile connectivity and unaccesptable broadband capacity.
"The Government must ensure that all rural shops are given the right conditions to be able to trade successfully. Without their local store, thousands of customers in rural areas would have no access to post office services, essential groceries and other services like bill payments."
For community drinks retailers, offering the full package of services to the community has often been the key to boosting sales of beers, wines and spirits. Alpesh Shingadia, who runs a Londis store in Southwater, told OLN his sales had increased when they made the move to introduce a post office in the last two years.
“People now travel 15 miles to get to our post office, especially around the Christmas period. We also have good sales of on-the-go coffee and food products, and this all helps sales in other categories, such as alcohol.”
Meanwhile, NFSP chief executive George Thomson said: "The UK's 3000-strong rural branch network fulfils an essential social and economic role. However these branches are often unprofitable and currently receive a minimum level of public investment. We know there are pressures on the public purse, however the Government must be careful not to be over ambitious in reducing the subsidy. We fear that too large a cut will result in many rural post offices being forced to close."