Autumn statement ‘a mixed bag’ for convenience channel

Industry chiefs weigh in on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s fiscal plans

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture:
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture:

CHANCELLOR Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement brought mixed blessings for the convenience channel, said industry leaders.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief exec Pete Cheema said: “We welcome some of the measures and the news that inflation is forecast to return to normal levels is good news.

“But it is troubling that the UK tax level is now the highest it has been since records began 70 years ago.”

He said the Chancellor must ensure the corporation tax break announced would also benefit small businesses and retailers across the UK.

Cheema added: “The freeze on alcohol duty is a welcome decision and recognises the importance of the industry to the Scottish economy and our sector.”

The Fed said there were some wins and some losses but criticised the failure to increase spending on policing at a time when retail crime had reached “epidemic proportions”.

President Muntazir Dipoti also warned that the increase to £11.44 an hour for the national living wage could be the tipping point for small stores struggling to stay in business.

He said: “As responsible employers, we want to pay our staff a fair wage for a fair day’s work. But, unfortunately, there are hours in the day when some retailers do not generate an income of £11.44.”

Another potential hit for retailer profits was the 12% rise in duty on hand-rolling tobacco. That equates to a tax of £2.21 per 30g pack of rolling tobacco – an increase of 46p from March.

Smokers’ rights campaigners Forest slammed the move as a “punitive attack on working-class smokers”.

Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale highlighted a business rates disparity, saying: “Last year, shops in Scotland missed out on the rates relief available to counterparts south of the border.

“With relief for the retail sector in England being extended once again, it is imperative that the Finance Secretary ensures a similar discount applies in Scotland.”