Retailers face tough road to reopening without high street stimulus schemes, Scottish Retail Consortium warns

As Northern Ireland reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the high street can reopen safely and successfully, the Scottish Retail Consortium has reissued its recommendation for measures to stimulate consumer spending ahead of shops reopening.

Glasgow city centre during coronavirus lockdown tier 4. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow city centre during coronavirus lockdown tier 4. Picture: John Devlin

The Scottish Retail Consortium issued an initial call for consumer spend incentives to support ailing retailers last year, after the Northern Irish government outlined their commitment to supporting their retail sector with a High Street Stimulus Scheme.

While the Northern Irish scheme, looking to support retailers by providing the public with pre-paid cards to spend at high street shops, has been subject to delays and put on hold since initially announced last year, the Northern Irish government earmarked the High Street Stimulus Scheme as part of their Economic Recovery Action Plan last week.

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The Scottish Retail Consortium have since reiterated the need for similar Scottish incentives or retail support in order to encourage consumers back to the shops once these are allowed to reopen as per the Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The retail representative body highlighted this further in their recently published Holyrood Manifesto for the next Scottish government, in which they stated: “we would argue that measures which encourage consumer spending and support retail will consequently positively impact on the wider economy and indigenous suppliers.”

Speaking in advance of the Scottish Parliament’s first vote on the latest Budget, which passed David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:

“Whilst not perfect, there is much within the proposed Scottish Budget that retailers can get behind, at what is an incredibly challenging time for the industry in Scotland which remains under the shadow of Covid. The extension to business rates relief and the support for consumer spending – through the protection of ordinary taxpayers from rises in income tax rates and rises in council tax - are very welcome.

“With much of the industry in the depths of its biggest crisis in decades, and large swathes of stores currently closed for a third time in less than a year, more support is likely to be required. Reopening stores will itself not be a panacea for the industry, as shops will be unable to trade at capacity due to physical distancing and caps on the number of customers in stores. Ministers should stand ready to act to stimulate consumer spending and economic transactions, perhaps through a High Street Stimulus Scheme as Northern Ireland has reaffirmed today it is committed to.

“Firms are looking for as much certainty as possible. Hopefully none of these pro-growth measures will be diluted by parliamentary horse-trading over the next week or two in order to secure a Budget accord. Robust debate and scrutiny of the Budget over the coming days is both right and necessary, however any failure to pass a Budget would add a thick layer of uncertainty at what is the most challenging of economic times for many firms.”

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