Independent retailers have put themselves at the heart of the general election campaign as the country prepares to go to the polls on 7 May.

Store owners have seized the chance to engage and debate with candidates in their respective constituencies on key business issues as the major parties unveil their manifestos.

In Belvedere, south London, retailer Amit Patel invited all those standing in his constituency to speak to local businesses at a hustings organised in conjunction with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), where the main topics debated included business rates, fly tipping and the upcoming arrival of Crossrail.

Mr Patel said organising the event had been a relatively simple process and encouraged other store owners to do the same: “I contacted the local candidates via Twitter or email and all of them responded very quickly except for UKIP.”

The ACS is assisting other retailers to make contact with local candidates. Dan Cock of Premier Whitstone Village Stores in Devon is hoping to meet his Conservative and UKIP candidates as his traditionally-Lib Dem seat comes under pressure from the other parties.

“Having a good local politician is more important than the party they’re from,” he said. He added that retailers should “collectively highlight what local businesses do” so that MPs are aware of their value during the next parliament.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois, who came to prominence as a critic of his party’s support for plain packaging and for championing the needs of small businesses, urged retailers to take time to engage with their local politicians in the run up to polling day: “Retailers need to look carefully at their candidates and try and understand what makes them tick because they are potentially going to be your representative for the next five years.”

Read more on Amit Patel’s event in this week’s issue of Retail Newsagent. Don’t miss our election special next week.
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