The ACS has stressed local shops are facing a risk of closure without “urgent intervention” from MPs, as it launches its latest Rural Shop Report.
The document, published today, highlighted the crucial role the UK’s 17,720 rural shops play in their local town, providing vital services, with nearly three quarters engaging in some form of community activity in the past year.
A launch event was held in parliament, attended by rural affairs minister Lord Benyon and shadow minister for food Daniel Zeichner MP.
However, chief executive James Lowman warned: “Rural shops face unique challenges compared to their more urban counterparts, with many not able to gain access to a secure and reliable broadband or mobile connection, and supply chain issues that make it more difficult to get a regular supply of products without paying excessive delivery charges.
“We’re calling on all MPs in rural areas to support their local shops at this incredibly challenging time for the whole rural convenience sector, as the loss of any rural shop would have a huge impact on the community that it serves.”
Elsewhere, the report revealed rural shops provide local, flexible and secure jobs to 142,000 people, with more than half of rural colleagues walking to work; more than one in four rural shops provide a local grocery home delivery service to customers; and in the last year, rural shops have made investments worth over £214m to secure the future of their businesses.
Convenience stores were ranked as having the most positive impact on a local area, followed by post offices and pharmacies.
Lowan added: “The government has failed in its attempt to come up with a solution to help rural businesses that need urgent support on energy costs, instead opting for a scattergun approach that won’t make a dent in the bills of thousands of shops facing huge hikes in the energy bills this year. Without urgent intervention to allow businesses to renegotiate fairer contracts, local shops will be forced to close their doors in numbers.”
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