Time running out for High Street retailers, warns FPB

By Leah Vyse

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Retailing Shopping mall

Independent High Street shops could be eradicated by 2015 unless
leading supermarkets limit their expansion into the convenience
sector, according to the Forum for Private Businesses (FPB).

The forum told a group of MPs today that since 1997, 20,000 High Street stores have closed, at the shocking rate of 50 every week.

Representatives from the FPB are meeting at the House of Commons to give oral evidence as part of its "High Street Britain 2015" inquiry to limit the expansion of large retailers into the convenience sector.

This evidence will be used as a platform to make clear recommendations to the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the office of the Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Office of Fair Trading on the state of UK retail."We will be calling for MPs to press the government to order a Competition Commission inquiry into the supermarkets' monopoly in Britain's retailing,"​ said FPB chief executive Nick Goulding.

According to new figures from the retail research group IGD the current estimated value of the British convenience market is £23.9 billion, an increase of 4.9 per cent since 2004. This constitutes the largest growth-area for food retailers and signals an upward trend in consumers' preference for local convenience stores.

But as this market rises, the only sector with a fall in sales is that of the independent retailer, which saw a 5.2 per cent fall in sales last year, following a 7.4 per cent fall in the number of stores on the previous year.

In addition, retail chains have achieved four times greater sales per store than the non-affiliated independent stores.

The FPB, which represents 25,000 small businesses employing over 600,000 people, is fighting against what they call "supermarket propaganda", claiming it serves to drive down the quality of choice and food.

"It is critical that the Government uses its powers to stop the Tesco/Asda/Sainsbury juggernaut from eradicating High Street shops altogether by 2015."

"The FPB is calling on the Government to take decisive measures to ease the heavy burden of taxation on smaller businesses, such as business rates, upward only rent reviews, anti-competitive practices, out of town shopping centres and costing town centre parking charges,"​ said Goulding.

The FPB claims the government must explore the propaganda created by retail giants such as Tesco, who spend millions on advertising and celebrity endorsements creating a myth that it supplies the best quality, price and variety of products.

The sheer scale of the presence of the large retailers was recently confirmed through revelations that in the UK almost one pound in every eight is spent in Tesco.

Following today's meeting with the All Party Small Shops Group, the government aim to publish a report by the end of the year, something that smaller retailers hope will bring fair competition back into the British retail market.

Tesco more than doubled its Express and Metro stores in 2004, having converted some Adminstore and 1-Stops to fit their successful blueprint. Marks and Spencer's Simply Food chain grew from 49 to 122 in 2004.

The economy-brand Co-operative Group now own the largest share of stores in the convenience sector - currently 72 per cent.

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