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Dear Prime Minister, a word in your ear...

Len Glenville
Chair, National Association of Health Stores

So, at the time of writing, we know that either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will be out next Prime Minister. Sometime this Autumn the election process will be done and dusted and we’ll have a new PM.

With a bit of luck she or he will still be in listening mode. So, with talk of “clean starts” and “resets” in mind, what message would independent health food retailers want to send to our new Prime Minister and Cabinet? Ideally, something printable.

Well, having been listening carefully to NAHS members over the past few months, let’s make a few suggestions. First, if the Government is really serious about rejuvenating local high streets, can we have some clear policy support for the small retail businesses that are at their heart? What we need are properly thought through measures providing sustainable, practical support for independent retail businesses.

During the early stages of the pandemic, in recognition of the exceptional circumstances the country faced, the Government implemented the furlough scheme, along with a package of loans, grants and temporary tax cuts. Most of this support has been withdrawn. But we now find ourselves facing exceptional economic circumstances, with soaring inflation and business costs at an all-time high. Rocketing energy costs are placing unprecedented stresses on small retailers. At the same time, rising fuel and raw materials prices and continuing supply chain disruptions are pushing up prices at the checkout and making small retailers even more vulnerable to supermarket competition.

And we still have a business rate system that almost everyone agrees is unfit for purpose.

So, yes please to fresh policies that will ease the burden on small retailers and secure the long-term future for valued local high streets. But we would also like to see clearer acknowledgement from Government of the important contribution that natural products retailers make to the health of their communities. The Government’s recent White Paper on Health and Social Care calls for a much greater focus on prevention and building health resilience. Doesn’t it make sense, then, for health stores to be proactively recommended as a valuable local health resource?

Finally, we would make a plea to both central Government and local authorities to ensure that measures to promote ‘greener streets’ and promote walking and cycling, which many of our members would support in principle, don’t produce unhelpful unintended consequences. Poorly thought through schemes that remove all local parking, or make it prohibitively expensive, can end up making shopping streets virtually inaccessible for older people, and those with mobility issues, while others are encouraged to drive miles to out of town supermarkets for the free parking they invariably offer. Not exactly very green!

The NAHS is committed to ensuring that independent health food stores are given the full recognition they deserve and have access to all of the tools they require to make a success of their businesses, but we do need the support of retailers to achieve this. Join us for as little as £21 per month via the ‘Sign Up’ button on our website and together we can drive our industry forward.

NAHS – Your Association, Your Voice

Contact [email protected] or call 01875 341408 for further details

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