The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) has released its agenda for 2015, which outlines the organisation's primary policy goals.
Key policy measures advocated for include financial support for small businesses, a crackdown on crime and a postponement on the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.
An NFRN survey found that 73% of the general public are in favour of introducing a 'Small Business Rate Relief' scheme. This would see large, out-of-town retailers paying higher rates to local authorities as a way of supporting independent retailers in town centres. 78% of people surveyed also support increasing headline lending targets to encourage Irish banks to lend more to small businesses.
NFRN Ireland President Peter Steemers said: “The current climate is a tough one for independent businesses and it is evident that there are further challenges on the horizon which could threaten their existence.”
The NRFN is also asking for a more proactive stance in clamping down on the black market including; additional Garda resources, new port scanners and criminalising the purchase of illicit cigarettes. It found that 73% were in favour of these measures.
Furthermore, 86% of people surveyed support tougher sentences for prolific shoplifters, as well as the introduction of a specific offence for the assault of retail workers to tackle anti-social behaviour targeted at local shops.
Additionally, the organisation called for the postponement of plain packaging on tobacco products, and a focus instead on education programmes to prevent young people smoking, which was found to be a popular viewpoint, with 62% in favour.
A less popular proposal in the agenda is the introduction of minimum unit prices for alcohol to prevent large supermarkets undercutting local shops. 47% surveyed are in favour of minimum unit prices, while 32% are opposed.
Plans to reduce or amalgamate the number of retail licenses and accompanying inspections that businesses are required to hold was supported by 52%.
Steemers said: “NFRN Ireland is not prepared to see the decline of the independent retail sector. However, NFRN Ireland cannot save its members’ businesses without the support of policy makers and for that reason is asking the Government parties, opposition parties and Oireachtas members to support small shopkeepers who are at the heart of the communities they serve.”
© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Genna Patterson and Jenny Whelan.