At a fringe event during the Labour Party Conference, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) emphasised the crucial role of local shops in shaping high streets and neighbourhood parades.

Entitled “High Streets: Heart of the Everyday Economy,” the event aimed to delve into the significance of businesses on local parades and high streets in people’s lives and explore potential policy measures to support them.

The ACS represents more than 33,500 local shops, providing support through impactful advocacy, expert guidance and creative networking opportunities.

Key Insights from the Event:

Chaired by Ryan Wain, Executive Director of Politics at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Ryan Wain, Executive Director of Politics at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, presided over the event, which featured a presentation by James Lowman, Chief Executive of ACS.

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Lowman presented the findings of the ACS’ 2023 Community Barometer, which was followed by a panel discussion addressing various policy issues affecting high streets, ranging from business rates to crime and safety.

Diverse panel of experts weighed In

The panel discussion included prominent figures from different sectors:

  1. Sarah Owen MP, Shadow Minister for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government
  2. Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, Usdaw
  3. Richard Fleetwood, Sub-Postmaster, RF Retail
  4. James Lowman, Chief Executive, ACS

Local shops: vital lifelines and community anchors

James Lowman, chief executive of ACS, emphasised the indispensable role of local shops in the lives of their customers.

He pointed out that these shops provide essential products and services while also acting as social hubs, particularly for isolated or vulnerable individuals.

Lowman cited the findings from ACS’ 2023 Community Barometer, indicating that UK consumers consider convenience stores essential.

Government support needed for long-term sustainability

Lowman expressed the need for increased government support to ensure the sustainability of these businesses.

He stated: “Convenience retailers are dedicated to making a positive difference in their communities, but they need more support from the government to ensure that they can continue to provide these services now and into the future.”

ACS’ 2023 community barometer highlights community priorities

The ACS’ 2023 Community Barometer delves into the preferences and priorities of local residents regarding the services in their area. It reveals that the top three services with the most positive impact are Post Offices, pharmacies and convenience stores, in that order.

These same services were also rated highest among local residents as the most essential, with pharmacies topping the list, followed by Post Offices and convenience stores.

The ACS’s membership encompasses a broad spectrum of convenience store retailers, ranging from independently owned family-run stores to symbol groups and multi-store operators. These retailers serve diverse locations, including neighbourhoods, villages, petrol forecourts and city centres.