OF ALL Scotland’s business sectors, retail has a special place in every community, delivering products and services.
Scotland has more than 23,000 shops – 12 per cent of all business outlets. This is above the comparable UK figure, suggesting Scottish retail has a more significant role in society than elsewhere in the UK.
In remote areas, the shop is often an essential support to the population.
Retailers don’t operate in a business bubble. They are closely connected to the communities in which they operate, especially through the jobs they provide. Retail is Scotland’s largest private sector employer, providing 235,000 jobs – 8.5 per cent of the workforce.
Retailers deliver a multitude of communal services: a central meeting place, somewhere for groups and politicians to engage with people as they shop, an outlet for local products, cashpoints, noticeboards and newspapers, and so on.
Retailers are passionate about their wider social obligations and doing even more through their community programmes.
The Scottish Retail Consortium’s latest report on retail at the heart of communities showcases outstanding examples of projects in which retailers are engaged. Supporting the future of the communities in which they trade is the right thing to do, and makes perfect business sense.
Whether through providing support to charities, schools, clubs and other groups by fundraising and financial support, through staff volunteering, health, environmental or educational projects, through sport or other means, the case studies in our publication illustrate the commitment, enthusiasm and pride of the sector and those who work in it.
The dedication that retailers have to their communities is recognised by the public. Recent independent research found that high street retailers and supermarkets were the top-rated sectors for getting involved in their communities, much higher than for other industries.
Politicians can better support the retail sector’s huge economic and social contribution by championing the industry and by keeping a tight lid on costs such as taxes, charges and red tape.
• David Lonsdale is director of the Scottish Retail Consortium