Independent retailers operate in a world where trade issues and legislation can and do have an enormous impact on businesses and livelihoods. Through our public affairs work we enable members to engage politically on the issues that matter to them and provide the tools to get elected political representatives to become effective advocates during policy making.
If you need any help in contacting your MP or political representatives, or have any questions relating to the political aspects of any campaign, please do not hesitate to contact the public affairs team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out the latest ways that the NFRN is developing its profile and building recognition of the needs of independent retailers in all parliaments and assemblies. More importantly, see how you can help!
Retail crime refers to crime that happens in store or while staff are performing their duties. It includes staff abuse, shoplifting, burglary and vandalism. The lack of harmonised definition is an obstacle to measure and combat retail crime. The NFRN has been lobbying the Home Office to adopt a common definition. This is key to improve the reporting process and ensure that victims of crime receive appropriate support.
Retail crime, whether shop theft or violence against retail staff, has been a growing concern for our members. The topic was hardly ever mentioned in the public debate until 2018. Yet, there is no such thing as ‘victimless crime’. Retailers need their businesses to be protected. Retail staff needs to feel free from fear at work. Our message has been positively received by Government, members of parliament and local Police and Crime Commissioners. The issue is now clearly on the political agenda. No crime should remain unpunished.
The true impact on independent retailers
Thefts, robbery and abuse against staff are reaching record high levels. The ACS’ 2019 Crime Report found that crimes committed against the convenience sector cost an estimated £246m in 2018(i).
In addition, retail staff suffer high levels of abuse. The same Crime Report found that 83% of people working in convenience stores have been subject to verbal abuse in 2018, with the top three triggers for aggressive or abusive behaviour being challenging shop thieves; enforcing age restrictions; and refusing to serve drunks. Yet, Usdaw also found that in 2018, 1 in 6 shop workers who were physically attacked did not report the assault(ii).
Indeed, retailers do not feel encouraged and supported when it comes to reporting retail crime. Three main reasons need to be explored and dealt with. Firstly, thefts under a £200 threshold are no longer investigated in England and Wales since the introduction of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Secondly, the Public Accounts Committee found that the proportion of victims who were not satisfied with the police response rose from 29% in the year ending March 2016 to 33% in the year ending March 2018(iii). Thirdly, offenders who are caught do not always receive deterrent sanctions. For instance, 79% of respondents to the ACS Crime Report said that thefts committed against their business were committed by repeat offenders that aren’t being dealt with by local police forces.
Ultimately, the true extent of retail crime remains unknown. This problem must be measured effectively if safety in shops is to improve.
The NFRN is already taking action
As part of our on-going campaign against retail crime, the NFRN called upon MPs to support an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill to make it an offence to obstruct or threaten a retailer who is enforcing the age restrictions on the sale of corrosive or bladed items. The amendment, tabled by David Hanson MP, received great support amongst MPs across all parties and peers.
Although the amendment wasn’t voted on, it triggered a meeting with Crime Minister Victoria Atkins MP. A delegation of NFRN representatives had a positive meeting in Whitehall, along with MPs and business representatives. The APPG for Retail Crime, whose secretariat is provided by the NFRN, also welcomed Mrs Atkins at one of its meetings. She said she had “enormous sympathy for shop workers who, in their endeavours to enforce the law, can face intimidation, threats and, in some cases, violence.” Ms Atkins used that meeting to unveil a package of measures to tackle violence against retailers. It included a call for evidence on violence and abuse towards shop workers; funding to raise awareness of existing legislation in place to protect shop workers; and refreshing the work of the National Retail Crime Steering Group to focus exclusively on violence and abuse. The Home Office is now working on the follow-up measures.
MPs and Peers who are willing to join the fight are encouraged to join the APPG on Retail Crime. The APPG, which is made up of Peers and MPs from across the political spectrum, and chaired by Steve McCabe MP, intends to encourage the Government to take action to protect retailers and their businesses.
The mobilisation continues
The NFRN will encourage its members to reach out to their constituency MPs and local Police and Crime Commissioners, to share their experience of crime in their area. The NFRN will continue creating momentum around the APPG and move the issue on the political agenda in Westminster.
The NFRN calls for: The NFRN needs the Government and Houses of Parliament to:
- Place retail crime on the political agenda in Westminster, Whitehall, the devolved Assembly and parliaments.
- Adopt a harmonised, common definition of ‘retail crime’ across the UK.
- Adopt a common method of recording and assessing retail crime across the UK.
- Scrap the £200 lower limit to investigate thefts.
- Make it an aggravated offence to obstruct or threaten a retailer who is enforcing the age restrictions on the sale of corrosive or bladed items.
(i) Association of Convenience Stores, 2019 Crime Report, March 2019.
(ii) Usdaw, Freedom from Fear Survey, Interim Result, November 2018.
(iii) Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons, Financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales, October 2018.
National Living Wage & Auto-enrolment
Whilst the NFRN is sympathetic to annual calls to increase the National Living Wage, our members cannot easily absorb these and they hinder their business growth.
This impact has not been anticipated by the government. It is important that the government and the Low Pay Commission consider the financial burden this places on independent retailers and provide support.
Additionally, the increase coincides with other challenging and costly policies affecting independent retailers. One such policy is the rollout of workplace pension auto-enrolment. Many independent retailers had to outsource auto-enrolment and payroll, adding to the already high cost resulting from minimum employer contributions.
The NFRN calls for: The government to review the impact that the Living Wage and auto-enrolment have on small and micro businesses and to assess the level of increases scheduled.
Support for independent retailers and the High Street
Independent retailers are at the heart of the local community by offering a vital service through convenience retailing, payment services, news, and even postal services. That’s why one of NFRN’s campaigns is to save the High Street, by ensuring the cost of running your business does not overtake profit margins.
In the Autumn Budget 2018, the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a string of measures aimed at reviving our High Streets, including a £675m High Streets Fund to help councils invest in the improvements needed. The NFRN actively seeks ways to engage with local authorities to ensure that small retailers receive a fair share of the funding. The NFRN will also ensure it is closely involved in the work of the future High Streets Taskforce – to be led by Sir John Timpson.
On Budget Day, the Chancellor also announced that for the next two years, retailers in England with a rateable value of £51k or less will have their business rates bill cut by a third. That’s a much-needed relief for retailers, but it’s only a temporary fix. This will not help retailers get back on their feet and start investing again, as they are struggling with crippling taxes.
The NFRN calls for: The government to look at sustainable measures to support the High Street. The NFRN urges the government to simplify the tax system for retailers, and increase the £12,000 threshold for business rate relief.
Offensive Weapons Bill
Retail staff continue to suffer an unprecedented level of violence and abuse in their workplace. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers found that during 2018, 6 in 10 shop workers experienced verbal abuse and there were over 230 assaulted every day. 59% of those who experienced violence, threats or abuse at work did not report the incident.
In 2018, the NFRN has been closely involved in amending the Offensive Weapons Bill to give retail workers greater protection. Delyn MP David Hanson tabled an amendment to make obstructing or threatening a worker carrying out age verification on corrosive or bladed products an aggravated offence. NFRN members have been encouraged to contact their local MPs to get their support in Parliament. The issue found echoes in Parliament and the NFRN was mentioned a number of times during the debates.
As a reply, Minister for Crime Victoria Atkins organised a roundtable with the NFRN, MPs and other representatives of the retail industry on 11 December 2018. The NFRN will update its members shortly on the outcome of the meeting.
The NFRN calls for: The government to make an aggravated offence to obstructing or threatening a worker carrying out age verification on corrosive or bladed products.
Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, Freedom from Fear Interim Survey, 2018.
Deposit Return Scheme (Scotland)
In September 2017, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would introduce a deposit return system (DRS) for used drinks cans and bottles. A one-way DRS usually involves an initial deposit added to the purchase price of a drink, which is then refunded when the container is returned to a collection point. If consumers decide not to return the used container, they will lose the deposit. The specific design for Scotland has yet to be finalised but is aimed at reducing the high number of litter ending up in the Scottish countryside and sea.
Independent retailers have long called for a deposit refund scheme for plastic bottles and cans in Scotland and agreed to a proactive policy of engagement with like-minded stakeholders in a bid to increase recycling levels within Scotland. Speaking at the NFRN’s Scottish Conference in March 2017, Gail Winfield, then its president, said: “NFRN members are responsible retailers who want to play a role in protecting the environment and who recognise the damage that plastic bottles and cans can do to their surroundings. It’s for that reason we have agreed today to support the Scottish government’s aim of increasing the rate of recycling but we want to ensure that any schemes to achieve this are developed in co-operation with the independent retail sector.”
Research suggests that a deposit return scheme could cut litter by 18 million cans and 21 million bottles in Scotland. With such compelling evidence, the NFRN wants to pro-actively engage with like-minded stakeholders in discussion and debates, leading to an industry solution that will benefit, not hinder, independent retailers.
In developing a DRS in Scotland it is important that the challenges and opportunities that such a scheme would present to the independent retail sector are considered and addressed. That way, a scheme that works for the customer and for retailers of all sizes can be introduced.
The building of a resilient infrastructure is the key to DRS being a success for independent retailers. To achieve this a number of issues will need to be addressed. These include:
- A strong infrastructure that can be relied on to collect the returns on a daily basis.
- An administrative system that does not impose a heavy burden on retailers but does pay them the refunded deposit and handling fee quickly, accurately and efficiently.
- The possibility of exemption or opt-outs for small shops and kiosks.
- Support from the manufacturers by investing in the success of the project, both with the development of the infrastructure but also helping independent retailers by providing capital to obtain reverse vending machine for use in independent retail stores.
The NFRN is keen to continue working with the government to ensure that the scheme will reflect the specific needs of the independent retail sector. Consideration must be given to the nature of members’ stores and the need to avoid excessive red tape, to the need for manufacturers to invest in the success of the scheme, ensuring that the infrastructure can be put In place that benefits independent retailers.
The NFRN calls for: Proactive engagement with like-minded stakeholders and the Scottish government to devise an industry solution that works for everyone.
Illicit Trade - Suspect it? Report it!
The illicit trade market, in particular tobacco and alcohol is a costly burden not only to legitimate retailers but also to the Treasury, with a loss of more than £3.6bn each year in lost revenue. The NFRN has campaigned against any measures which may increase the volume of illicit trade, such as plain packaging. In addition, the NFRN has called for the Government, Trading Standards, Police and HMRC to do more to combat illicit trade. Counterfeit tobacco and alcohol are a particular concern to independent retailers as the proliferation of such products results in a substantial loss of sales for legitimate retailers as well as having serious health risks to consumers.
NFRN and Imperial Tobacco team up to fight illicit tobacco
50,000 anti-illicit trade (AIT) packs branded with Imperial’s award-winning Suspect it? Report it! campaign were distributed to all retailers throughout the UK during January 2017. Each pack contained a range of in-store activation materials, including infographics, posters and stickers. These resources have been specifically created to raise awareness among retailers, their staff and adult smoker customers in understanding the multitude of threats to government, retail industry and society posed by the illicit tobacco trade.
Peter Nelson, AIT Manager, Imperial Tobacco comments: “Latest reports* suggest around 1 in 6 factory made cigarettes and 2 in 5 hand-rolled cigarettes smoked in the UK are of an illicit nature, which is among the highest in the EU. This illegal product can often be unregulated; it also threatens retailers’ livelihoods, brings criminal elements into local communities and deprives the Government of billions of pounds in much-needed tax revenue each year.
“With the full transition to standardised – or ‘plain’ – packaging on 20 May fast approaching, it is likely that tobacco manufacturers, enforcement bodies and retailers alike will have to contend with a increased threat from the illicit trade in the near future, so the release of these Suspect it? Report it! information packs comes at a particularly crucial time.
“We strongly believe that collaboration between government, industry and law enforcement is the only way to achieve long-term success, with all partners working together in a focused manner to achieve the Government’s objectives of not only reducing the illegal trade, but also helping restrict youth access to prohibited products.”
What to do if you suspect illegal tobacco is being sold
If you have any suspicions around the sale of illegal tobacco where you live, report it! Please act by contacting either the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000, NFRN Connect or your local Trading Standards/Police. Retailers can also contact their designated Imperial Tobacco sales representative.
How to follow the campaign
If you would like to read more about the illicit trade, please visit the Suspect it? Report it! website at www.suspect-it-report-it.co.uk, or follow the campaign on Twitter at @suspect_report. New to Twitter? Check out our Twitter Beginner’s Guide for all the basics.
To view the latest NFRN articles on illicit tobacco, visit https://nfrnonline.com/tag/illicit-trade/
The NFRN works hard on behalf of its members, building relationships with industry partners and key ministers and parliamentarians to ensure that the concerns of independent retailers are at the forefront of discussions.
Carrier Bag Levy
The carrier bag levy in England came into force in October 2015, following similar initiatives in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland where plastic bag usage has dropped significantly as a result.
The NFRN has always supported a carrier bag charge with the aim of reducing waste and protecting the environment. Unlike Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the levy was only applicable for large stores in England. Despite extensive lobbying efforts by the NFRN, including conversations with the coalition Government’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the then Minister for Water, Forestry, Rural Affairs and Resource Management, Dan Rogerson, smaller shops in England are excluded from making a charge for single use carrier bags.
The NFRN maintained that this is unnecessary, would confuse customers and lessen the impact on the environment that an all inclusive levy would have had. In December 2015, the NFRN submitted a ‘voluntary code of conduct’ for smaller shops to charge for single use carrier bags, this was submitted to then DEFRA Minister, Rory Stewart.
NFRN welcomes extension of carrier bag charge to smaller shops
The government is now proposing to extend the charge to all retailers in January 2020, and double it to 10p.
The announcement is a significant victory for the NFRN, who has been campaigning to extend the scheme since its introduction. The new regulation will level the playing field between small and large retailers. It will also give NFRN members the opportunity to donate the proceeds of the charge to local charities. However, we believe that a two-step approach would be wiser, and we have urged the government to publish a first assessment of the extension of the charge before increasing it.
Defra has submitted its proposals to a public consultation, which closed in February. The NFRN will monitor the outcome of the consultation and take appropriate action in due course.
Camelot Free Retailer Hotline
The NFRN has welcomed the news that Camelot is reinstating a free retail hotline for retailers to use for day to day help and advice from 5 June 2017.
The new free Retailer Hotline number from June 5 is 0800 8 40 50 60
In autumn 2015 the national lottery operator enraged NFRN members by transferring its previously free retail hotline to an expensive 0844 number. No formal notice was given about the move before the new telephone number took effect from Friday October 8.
The NFRN raised members’ concerns directly with Camelot warning that the move would mean retailers would be paying more to use the hotline than they would earn in commission from selling lottery tickets and scratch cards. It described the move as “unwarranted and unfair”.
On 2 June 2017 Camelot announced the launch of its “AllStars” support package for independent retailers, which along with the reinstatement of the free retail hotline number includes a £4 million plus investment in new and extra pos materials and signage and increased contact from its team for expert advice and support.
The NFRN has joined forces with a host of industry associations representing more than 400,000 people across several sectors to fight against the Government’s proposed sugar tax.
The ‘Face the Facts, Can the Tax’ campaign is supported by a coalition of British businesses who have come together to highlight the damaging economic consequences of the tax and urge the Government to rethink the policy and focus instead on proven solutions that will address obesity.
The group includes soft drinks manufacturers, wholesalers, small shops, newsagents, restaurants, bars, and pubs. They are warning the tax will do nothing to tackle obesity, and risks causing thousands of job losses and higher prices for those who can least afford it.
“Education not legislation on sugar ” says NFRN
13 October 2016
The NFRN has reiterated its calls for education rather than regulation in its response to the government’s consultation on the proposed sugar tax.
In its submission, the NFRN has warned that instead of reducing instances of obesity, a tax on sugary soft drinks will only hit hard working independent retailers who are already reeling from higher costs arising from the newly launched National Living Wage, business rates and from complying with the tobacco display ban.
The NFRN reminded the government that in Mexico a soft drinks tax only reduced the daily sugar intake by six calories per person.
Instead, the NFRN said that consumers needed to be better educated into the effects of sugar and the alternatives available.
NFRN’s Day of Action against the sugar tax
27 September 2016
Nearly 2,000 independent retailers got behind the NFRN’s call for the government to rethink its plans for a sugar tax on sugary drinks.
Since the NFRN’s Day of Action against the proposed sugar tax on Friday September 16, almost 1,500 store owners have filled out a postcard to Chancellor Philip Hammond registering their objection to the proposal and saying no to the tax.
A further 459 have written to their MP, warning that the move will devastate their businesses while failing to tackle the UK’s obesity problems.
Posters stating that a potential 58p price increase on a two litre bottle of a sugary soft drink will cause shop closures and job losses have also gone up in thousands of stores nationwide.
NFRN Chief Executive Paul Baxter said: “While we understand that the government has got to get to grips with rising obesity levels, we believe the proposal for a sugar tax is flawed. That’s why thousands of independent retailers are joining our call for Chancellor Philip Hammond to reconsider and come up with a solution that will not threaten the survival of local independent shops.”
Twitter is a great way to get your voice heard, so make sure you follow the campaign on the NFRN Twitter page and by using the hashtag #canthetax. New to Twitter? Check out our Twitter Beginner’s Guide for all the basics.
Please help us get the government to face the facts and rethink its approach to tackling obesity.
For more information about the NFRN’s campaign against the sugar tax, visit nfrnonline.com/sugartax
On 27 July 2017, the NFRN expressed concern at new contracts being imposed by Payzone.
The changes, which represent a fundamental change from existing arrangements, were being forced through with a minimum time for retailers to consider the detail of the new contract.
Visit our Payzone Contracts Update page for the very latest.
In May 2015, PayPoint informed retailers that it was reducing the cap that applies to transaction commissions. The NFRN responded by referring this matter to its lawyers and are considering making a formal complaint about PayPoint to the Payment System Regulator (PRS) in an attempt to seek a full market investigation into the Over-the-Counter Payment and Collection Services market. A letter to energy regular, OFGEM, has also been posted and warns of the invidious situation that PayPoint retailers now find themselves in and calls for an immediate investigation.
The NFRN escalated its dispute against payment service provider, PayPoint, by urging its 9,000 members who operate terminals with them to write to their MPs asking them to raise concerns in Parliament about PayPoints decision to reduce the cap on retailer’s commissions. Independent retailers play a vital role in ensuring consumers have access to over the counter payment and collection services but it is inconceivable that they are expected to operate at a loss.
In letters to MPs, many retailers are considering removing terminals from their stores, denying vulnerable and elderly customers the opportunity to pay bills, top up keys for their electricity or gas metres or pick up their benefits.
Whether it was through the NFRN’s Parliamentary Receptions, responses to Government Consultations, our Budget 2016 submission or through members actively engaging with their MPs in their shops or at their surgeries; plans to relax Sunday trading hours was defeated in the House of Commons and recorded the first defeat to the Conservative Government, after 317 MPs voted against the proposal to allow councils to extend opening hours on Sundays through the Enterprise Bill.
However, this is still contested and is being monitored by NFRN Public Affairs and will always stand up for the independent retailer and make sure their voices are heard in Westminster and in the devolved Assemblies.
Business Rates 2017
Independent retailers have faced a tough business climate during the financial uncertainty over the past few years. Given their relatively small size, our members are particularly affected by any changes to their trading conditions.
After extensive campaigns through Parliamentary receptions, meeting with Ministers, letter writing campaigns and a strong proposal put forward before the 2016 Budget, the NFRN’s campaign for a reduction in business rates met success. As of April 2017, more than 600,000 small businesses will be taken out of business rates all together. Rateable properties of less than 15,000 will be paying no rates at all, meaning a typical corner shop or newsagent will be paying no rates.
The NFRN challenged the Department of Health to think again about putting tobacco products in plain packs, our submission can be found here. We submitted concerns made by newsagents and convenience stores that the introduction of plain packaging will provide a boost to counterfeiters and the illicit market, which in turn has a negative impact not only on legitimate and responsible businesses, but on public health too.
Press for Reform
For far too long the news and magazine supply chain has been dominated by over-mighty publishers and wholesalers that exert their market share in a manner that alters the market itself.
In July 2011, the NFRN launched the ‘Press for Reform’ campaign, which lobbied Parliamentarians and the Office of Fair Trading to refer the news supply chain to the Competition Commission for a full market investigation. In October 2012, the Competition Appeal Tribunal dismissed a joint appeal from the NFRN and the ACS over the Office of Fair Trading’s decision not to order a review of the News industry.