Independent retailers in Leeds have doubts proposed Shop Out to Help Out campaign will bag a bargain

Independent retailers in Leeds have had a mixed reaction to a Shop Out to Help Out campaign idea.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:00 am

The idea has been muted by campaign group Save The Street, backed by figures including retail expert Mary Portas and beauty entrepreneur Charlotte Tilbury.

The group has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the sector by offering customers 50 per cent off the cost of goods at independent retailers up to a price of £10.

It echoes a scheme run last August, Eat Out to Help Out, where 50 per cent, up to £10 per person, was knocked off diners' bills at participating restaurants, cafes and pubs.

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Scott Gamble outside Crash records on The Headrow.

They suggest such a scheme could run for one month this summer with discounts available to shoppers from Monday to Wednesday only, and limited to independent enterprises with fewer than 10 employees that sell through physical stores.

Like the Eat Out to Help Out restaurant scheme of August 2020, the Government would reimburse retailers for the discount, with customers only able to use it once per transaction.

Save The Street said Treasury could levy a sales tax on online retailers or draw on the £1.8bn in business rates relief which has been returned by supermarkets to cover the cost of the scheme.

But, independent retailers in Leeds say while they welcome support and initiatives, it could be logistically difficult to implement for a number of reasons such as man hours required and possibility for exploitation.

Leeds is hoping to entice shoppers back to the high street as lockdown eases.

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"There are logistical challenges so whether retailers will run with it and how - I don't know. A lot of independents have had to move online and adapt, and I am all for ideas to bring retail back but I think it is going to take a while. And certainly the stuff we deal with, people have had access to it, not like Primark that wasn't online, people had missed it and you had huge queues.

"We are very much looking forward to seeing people back in the shop."

At Colours May Vary, a book shop and event space in Munro House, Becky Palfrey told the Yorkshire Evening Post a simpler voucher scheme would be preferable as businesses with small teams were already struggling to keep on top of paperwork for risk assessments, online orders, business grant and relief form filling in.

Scott Gamble, co-owner of Crash Records.

She said: "We would be very cautious to sign up to something that was not a simple voucher system. They were talking before about a purely bricks and mortar, simple system that was almost like a cash value voucher and the outlet would get that rather than people register - it is very different for hospitality.

"There are a lot of people setting up initiatives under the guise of helping independents and I get exhausted with the sheer volume of platforms, it would be nice to see something simple. Everyone is exhausted by admin of getting grants, worrying about whether you have filled in the right form and are you entitled to it, will it come back on you? We have had fantastic support but I want it to be over. Even if the government devolved to the city council a campaign to promote local retail that would be great."

Independent retailers classed as 'non-essential' have been prohibited from physical trade for three quarters of the last year, missing out on crucial pre-Christmas and Easter trade.

UK stores are now down £27 billion in lost sales during the three English lockdowns and related closures in the other nations, according to British Retail Consortium figures, with 67,000 retail jobs lost between December 2019 and 2020.

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