Independent retailers across the country have been raising the profile of small businesses and putting their shops at the top of local parties’ agendas.
Ahead of the Election on May 7, shop owners have been gathering up their prospective MPs to ensure the small business voice is heard.
They’ve arranged hustings and hosted shop visits throughout the election campaign with parliamentary candidates across the political spectrum, from major party ministers to minority groups.
We spoke to a handful of retailers who used their initiative to get the small business message across pre-General Election on behalf of the convenience industry.
Jinx Hundal, One Stop, Norwich
“It’s the first time small businesses have been this high profile and we need to make the most of it. I did it because locally it’s important to raise a voice for small businesses and allow us to make a more informed decision.”
Who? Clive Lewis (Labour) / Steven Emmens (UKIP) / Lesley Grahame (Green)
Discussed? Crime, planning, getting young people into the industry. I felt I could be honest with them. I read their manifestos the night before and tailored the questions specifically to their manifestos to clarify small business issues.
The Green Party explained their £10 minimum wage and how they expect us to sustain this. Labour had just an incredible amount of knowledge, I asked him some challenging questions and I was amazed by his wealth of knowledge on small businesses. The UKIP candidate had the most local knowledge and tailored a speech specifically for small businesses in the local area. They all had very different messages, but all were very interesting.
What did you get out of it? Retailers are normally very busy and stuck in the day-to-day role – I normally wouldn’t give up half of my day to do something like this, but it was definitely worth it. I’ve built a relationship with a future politician, but doing something like this they understand that small business issues are very real.
Shahid Razzaq, Premier Mo’s, Glasgow
“Retailers need to get more involved and look at the bigger picture, beyond the shop walls. If we aren’t going to do something about, who is? If you’re not willing to take part or vote then you have no right to complain.”
Visited? Tom Greatrex (Labour, Shadow energy minister)
Discussed? The unfair practice of PayPoint and Santander. We also discussed the number of banks in Scotland because there are thousands of retailers in the same boat and can’t access one.
What did you get out of it? The visit hasn’t changed my vote, but it helped to meet him. I think it’ll be close between the Conservatives and Labour. The SNP are highly regarded, because they understand that the policies in England aren’t necessarily that popular in Scotland. People think Scots are socialist and revert to the stereotype, but it’s not like that. Labour will get hammered, it’s just about by how much.
Peter Calnon, Spar, Great Yarmouth
“We’re quite involved in local politics – my wife is a member of the parish council.”
Who? Brandon Lewis (Conservative Minister for Communities & Local Government).
Discussed? Minimum wage, local issues and planning in the village, but we also discussed things he didn’t know. Lewis didn’t know that we wanted us to be included in the bag levy. He thought that was the opposite of what retailers wanted.
What did you get out of it? It confirmed that we need to get involved to educate politicians. The more we get involved at the early stages, before they get elected, the more the profile of small stores will be raised.
Amit Patel, Belvedere News Food and Wine, Kent
“I arranged a formal small business hustings, chaired by the ACS, for the prospective MPs to formally explain their key messages for retailers in our constituency. All I had to do was contact them via Twitter and they responded very quickly.”
Who? Sidney Cordle (Christian Peoples Alliance) / Ann Garrett (Green Party) / Graham Moore (English Democrats) / Anna Firth (Conservatives) / Samson Iriajen (Liberal Democrats) / Teresa Pearce (Labour)
Dicussed? In depth local issues, fairer taxation for businesses, the support retailers need with regulation, multiples, living wage and even how community spirit affects mental health.
What did you get out of it? The only way we’re going to get recognition at a national level is to start off locally. We were able to discuss and ask exactly the questions we wanted. I’m arranging a candidate clear up day for them to prove that they’re really willing to support community issues, like the disgusting fly tipping in the area.