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The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) has expressed deep concern about the government’s intention to include smaller symbol stores in the proposed restrictions on the placement of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products within shops.

In its response to the Department for Health and Social Care as part of the consultation process, the NFRN says the proposed changes are both unfair and inconsistent.

Under the new policy, local shops and supermarkets over 2,000 sq ft and with more than 50 employees will no longer be able to place HFSS products at store entrances, checkouts, end of aisles and designated queuing areas.

However, the Government is proposing that the regulations should also apply to ‘symbol group’ retailers, which are independent retailers trading under brands such as Spar, Nisa and Costcutter. These stores are small businesses with owners that operate with a high degree of autonomy. They are not franchisees.

NFRN National President Stuart Reddish said: “The proposal to include symbol groups within the requirements of the policy is both unfair and inconsistent with current government policy toward retailers.

“By including independent retailers who have decided that they can best serve their local communities as part of a symbol group, while excluding those who trade under their own name, the government is creating a false division between symbol and non-symbol retailers, to the disadvantage of those retailers who have chosen to join a symbol group.

“A ridiculous situation will occur where two stores in similar locations, with similar levels of staffing and of similar size and product ranges, are treated differently solely on the basis of the sign above the door.”

The NFRN is also concerned about the timing of the new regulations.

Mr Reddish added: “Retailers have been through a difficult year, and the not inconsiderable expense of refitting stores to comply with the regulations would be extremely unwelcome as businesses try to look beyond the pandemic and lockdown.

“We also have concerns about the ability of retailers to make the necessary changes if the regulations are brought in too quickly. There is a limited amount of shop fitting capacity available, which could easily become swamped as a result of hasty implementation of these changes.

“The NFRN therefore calls on the government to delay implementation of any changes until April 2023 at the earliest.”

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