Wholesalers and retailers take their message to MPs

Wholesalers and their customers met MPs, Lords and policy makers at a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons to tell them first hand about the concerns and the key issues affecting independent newsagents and convenience store retailers.

Entitled, ‘The Heart of Your Community is Under Threat’, the reception, organised by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, enabled independent retailers and wholesalers to raise their concerns about the proposed tobacco display ban, business crime, and the sustainability of communities.

Around 200 people attended the event, and among more than 80 MPs and peers were shadow health minister Mike Pelling and shadow crime minister Philip Dunne.

Representatives from the wholesale sector who attended included FWD council member and Sugro UK managing director Philip Jenkins, Steve Fox, director of retail and Premier development at Booker, and Alan Toft, former FWD director general and founder and chairman of the My Shop is Your Shop campaign.

Philip Jenkins said: “I was fortunate to be invited to the NFRN Reception at the House of Commons, where I was able to see at first hand the strength of message being passed through to MPs of all parties, reinforcing the position of independent retailers and small businesses within the local community and continuing to drive home that legislative changes which penalise these businesses will ultimately bring about their demise, and consequently their loss to all members of the communities they serve.

“The message hit home to our MPs and we must now hope that with their understanding, they may influence the structure of the legislation before it becomes law.”

Steve Fox said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for our industry to engage directly with the decision makers on legislation that affects independent retailers. It was great to talk face to face to MPs and peers about the implications and impact of the policy’s they vote on and also the challenges that independent retailers face everyday.”

Alan Toft told ProWholesaler: “This was a very effective event. From my conversations with MPs I can only believe that the display ban will not be carried through Parliament, such is the mounting strength of opposition. NFRN should be congratulated on their herculean efforts on behalf of all cigarette stockists – who are all wholesalers’ customers.”

NFRN national president Naresh Purohit said: “The reception was organised to give our members a chance to network with politicians and policymakers to give them a real insight into the key issues that independent retailers face today. Making them aware of our concerns is a vital way of making sure they can help. Our members are at the heart of their communities and the insight that we can give should prove invaluable as government contemplates policy and regulation.”

“More than 100 members from all over the country took time out of busy schedules to make the trip to London to meet their MPs while those who couldn’t visit, telephoned or emailed their MP to tell them about their concerns and to ask for their support.

“Contact of this nature is crucial as it can have an impact on policy as well as keeping the NFRN and its thousands of members at the forefront of minds of those who have the power to help or hinder our businesses.”

During the event MPs were told how best they could encourage support for the small independent newsagents in their constituency.

This included: considering alternative legislative proposals to the proposed ban on in-store tobacco display; asking the Home Secretary to do more to help combat crimes against small businesses; and inviting MPs to engage with the local business community and encourage local authorities to sign-up to the Sustainable Communities Act.

Commenting on the proposed in-store tobacco display ban, Naresh Purohit said: “The NFRN is fully committed to eliminating smoking by juveniles and my members would support any legislation that effectively achieves that objective.

“However, the NFRN has consistently argued that banning tobacco displays will not achieve the intention of reducing youth smoking. What we want is legislation that effectively addresses the problem, such as a ban on the purchase, or attempted purchase, of tobacco by minors as well as the purchase of tobacco by adults for supply to minors – the proxy purchase.”

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