Rates relief hope
Retail voucher scheme hope as lockdown shops reopen
Shops in lockdown areas have been badly hit (pic: Terry Murden)
NOON UPDATE: Retailers are hopeful that the Scottish government will introduce a voucher scheme to help draw shoppers to the country’s high streets.
The Scottish Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses have called for a scheme similar to one operating in Northern Ireland worth £95m to local traders.
In response to a written parliamentary question from Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, the Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said many towns, and Business Improvement Districts have already introduced loyalty cards and Ministers are ‘investigating the potential’ of a national platform for a high street voucher scheme.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “It is encouraging that Scottish Ministers appear to have listened and are responding positively to our calls.”
A voucher scheme is one of a number of measures the SRC is demanding alongside continued business rates relief and a suspension of car parking charges.
The latest move came as non-essential shops in 11 local authority areas reopened after a three-week lockdown.
The areas moving from level 4 to level 3 are City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
Pubs and restaurants can also reopen in these areas from today, but can only serve food and must close at 6pm.
Mr Lonsdale said: “Whilst a return to trading is crucial, it will not be a panacea for the industry.
“Pandemic-induced restrictions and economic downturn are weighing on consumer demand, and a high street voucher scheme could help get the economy moving again and give a much needed shot in the arm to shops and other consumer-facing firms like eateries in the leaner months early in the New Year.”
The SRC estimates that 45% of non-essential stores in Scotland have been closed for the past three weeks and have lost about £12.5 million a day in revenues.
The SRC/KPMG retail sales monitor shows that over the past four months non-food stores in Scotland are consistently trading about a fifth down on last year.
December traditionally accounts for £1 in every £8 spent during the year, and the revenues generated often helps tide those shops over the leaner winter months when retail sales are at their lowest.
Mr Lonsdale said retailers in Scotland have invested significantly, to the tune of £45 million thus far, in social distancing and hygiene measures such as plexiglass screens at counters, signs and floor markings around the store, and new rotas and procedures for cleaning.