New plan for a more resilient retail sector puts people and town centres first
A new plan which sets out the potential direction of travel for, villages, towns and cities across Wales has been unveiled.
The retail sector is one of the largest private sector employers in Wales, providing jobs to 139,000 people (2021) and with a reach into communities across Wales.
It is a diverse sector that is instrumental in providing employment opportunities and services which are critical to the vitality of Wales’ town centres and rural communities.
However the coronavirus pandemic sped up changes to people’s shoppings habit, forcing many big name retailers to leave the high street.
‘Together for Retail: a Wales Retail Forum Action Plan’ sets out actions – shared by all social partners – that will also ensure the sector offers fair, secure and rewarding work.
It sets out common ground where the sector can come together to improve its prospects, as well as the prospects of those who work within it.
Collective action outlined in the plan includes:
- championing workforce equality; diversity and inclusion at all levels;
- embedding fair work principles by promoting the Real Living Wage, the benefits of the Economic Contract and the role of trades unions;
promoting the benefits of careers in the sector;
- assessing skills and training provision;
- adopting the Town Centre First policy in planning;
- reducing town centre vacant premises by supporting Local Authorities to match businesses to them or encourage community and other worthwhile use;
- working collaboratively to promote town centre/high street events to increase footfall;
- creating safer working environments;
- encouraging the retail sector to move towards net zero.
- The Welsh Government will continue to use levers such as the Young Person’s Guarantee and employability support schemes, Transforming Towns funding, Business Wales support and Non-Domestic Rates relief to support the growth of the sector.
Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething, said: “Our retail sector has a vital contribution to make to our town and city centres, rural communities, and our wider well-being, which was never better evidenced than during the Covid-19 pandemic, when retailers provided vital services to people and communities across Wales.
“The launch of this plan comes at a time when the sector is facing considerable change affecting business operations, the workforce, consumer behaviours and the broader economic context and outlook.
“Overlaying those issues are the headwinds of a cost-of-living and cost-of-doing-business crisis, with all the uncertainty that brings.
“We remain committed to an ongoing conversation, through the Retail Forum, to shape our response to current and future challenges and opportunities.”
Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, said: “These actions are shared by all social partners in the Retail Forum and are a clear demonstration of the value of social partnership.
“We are grateful for the engagement and support of the Forum members and the commitment of all our partners to work collaboratively to deliver this Plan.
“The retail sector is a vital source of jobs and is key to our ambitions for a Wales of fair work. Most of us will know someone who works in retail and it’s important the sector delivers the fairness, dignity and respect that retail workers need and deserve.
“With the backing of the Wales Retail Forum and its business and trade union representatives, I am confident this Plan will help deliver positive changes.”
Sara Jones from the Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC), said: “Welsh retailers have shown exceptional fortitude and resilience to come through the challenges of the past few years, a period of profound transformation for the industry which was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Welsh Retail Consortium is delighted to have partnered with Government to develop this action plan which recognises the substantial economic and social contribution that retailers are making in Wales and outlines a shared approach to sustainably grow the industry.
“The Plan has clear purpose and intent and demonstrates a shared willingness from the sector and Government to work in partnership and give the industry the support it needs to thrive.
“There is plenty to build on, and much work still to do, but we are confident that the sector is being listened to. The WRC will continue to press the case for prioritising the needs of our members, colleagues, and customers, helping to unlock the barriers to enabling Welsh retail to prosper in the years to come.”
Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary added: “The retail sector is one of Wales’s biggest employers, but much more needs to be done to raise the level of pay for retail workers and improve terms and conditions more broadly.
“The plan sets this in motion, recognising that raising unionisation rates is pivotal. It also recognises that the sector has specific challenges with abuse and violence faced by shop workers, with actions to address this.
Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, James Lowman said: “We are pleased that the Retail Action Plan has acknowledged the important contribution that convenience stores make to the Welsh economy and to communities across Wales, by providing access to essential products and services and acting as a social hub for those who may be more isolated or vulnerable.
“The Plan has also noted the pressures that businesses are currently facing and the need to provide retailers with certainty and support in order for them to thrive now and into the future.
“We will continue to engage with the Welsh Government, including through the Retail Forum on which we sit, to highlight the unique opportunities and challenges faced by local shops.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Email News@Wrexham.com