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BRC launches manifesto for retail

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Leeds High Street Credits: Unsplash

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade association for UK retail businesses, has launched its ‘Manifesto for Retail’ ahead of the general election, calling on all political parties to take a “fresh thinking” approach for a better retail future.

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

With retail being the “everywhere economy,” with a presence in most villages, towns, and cities across the UK, providing three million direct jobs, and 2.7 million more in the supply chain, the BRC has laid out three major fixes it believes will accelerate investment in the sector.

Its first proposal is to have a more coordinated approach to tax and regulation, as the cost burden on retail is rising, it notes, following the recent Autumn Statement announcements, including National Living Wage increases, which will cost 4 billion pounds.

The second policy proposal is directed a jobs and reforming the Apprenticeship Levy so funds can be used to meet a wider range of training needs, including short courses and pre-employment training, as more retail jobs become more digital and higher skilled. The BRC states that currently approximately half of retail's estimated 250-million-pound levy contribution goes unspent because it can’t be spent on the training the industry needs. It adds that the skills policy needs to evolve so the industry can train its workforce for new roles.

BRC unveils ‘Manifesto for Retail’ ahead of general election

The BRC is also calling for policies to support retailers’ investment in the tech needed to reach net zero and circular economy goals. With recycling rates in the UK languishing at just 44 percent, the BRC states 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 in a statement: “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.”

British Retail Consortium