Bath’s Wera Hobhouse, is amongst other Liberal Democrat MP’s who have today called on the Chancellor to “level the playing field” to help small high streets compete with internet giants in the run up to Christmas.
They fear local shops hit by decreased footfall during the coronavirus pandemic will continue to struggle and have therefore proposed a new scheme in a similar vein to how the Eat Out to Help Out scheme aided restaurants.
To encourage people to shop local from home to save the high street, the Party wants to see the Government cover the costs of postage.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the idea to help firms survive. Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.”
Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, said:
“It is no secret that small businesses in Bath are worried about their ability to stay afloat over the coming months. For so many, Christmas is their most lucrative time of year but the situation with Covid-19 has meant that footfall is no longer an option.
“When people turn online to do their Christmas shopping, free postage offers from online shopping giants is incredibly tempting. I know that some independents in Bath are offering free delivery to BA1 and BA2, or even hand delivering products themselves. I would encourage residents to check with independents and take advantage of these offers instead of shopping online. However, this is not a solution for every shop.
“It is undeniable that our high street once again in the line of fire. Government must level the playing field.”
Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
“This is the type of creative idea that would boost small businesses and balance out the playing field.
“We must do everything we can to help our small, independent stores.
“This is going to be the most important festive season our economy has ever seen and could be make-or-break for some of our small businesses.
“That’s why we must pull out all the stops to help them survive the end of 2020 and beyond.”
The text of the letter sent from Christine Jardine, Liberal democrat spokesperson for the economy, is as follows:
I would like to ask you to consider a support scheme for small businesses through the festive season which would help them in a similar way to the ‘eat out to help out’ campaign which the Government funded in the summer.
Small businesses in England are missing out on business in precious lucrative months and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland footfall is still significantly reduced even though a full lockdown hasn’t been imposed.
I urge you to explore pathways to pay the postage on online purchases from small local independent shops to make them a more viable option for people hunting Christmas presents and encourage people to shop small from home.
The free postage offers from online shopping giants and the ease of using Amazon Prime are incredibly tempting for those Christmas shopping online.
Paying postage on each individual Christmas purchase is a burden that is likely to repel shoppers from picking small retailers. That makes it an even tougher climate for small business and shut shops.
The prohibitive nature of these costs rings especially true for those in remote or rural communities for whom delivery charges are unjustly steep.
I am urging to embrace this idea as a way to stimulate traffic to small business sites. Removing the delivery cost burden would encourage shoppers to select individual items from different small shops – rather than resorting to bulk buy from large suppliers.
I look forward to your response.