The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is calling for the UK’s political parties to work with the retail industry on its future as the country enters 2024, a General Election year.

Launching its Manifesto for Retail, the BRC highlights the significance of the UK industry’s lacklustre performance in 2023.

Expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 2% by 2027, retail is the UK’s largest private sector employer, generating 3m direct jobs and 2.7m more in the supply chain. In one-fifth of UK constituencies, it accounts for more than a third of jobs.

The BRC asserts that this size, scale and reach put the industry in a unique position to make a significant contribution to public policy goals.

The organisation calls for fresh thinking from political parties to help maximise and develop a policy, regulatory and tax environment to benefit retailers, consumers, the economy and the environment.

The BRC’s Manifesto for Retail

The first key point of the manifesto is a more co-ordinated approach to UK tax and regulation to reduce the cost burden on retail, which rose by a reported £4bn after the recent Autumn Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in November 2023.

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Secondly, the BRC is calling for an evolved skills policy for the increasingly digitalised retail industry to train its workforce effectively. This means reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, as approximately half retail’s estimated £250m levy contribution currently goes unspent.

Finally, the manifesto requests policies to support the industry’s investment in waste management and sustainable technology to reach net zero goals.

Following the opposition Labour Party’s conference in October 2023, the BRC supported the party’s stand against retail crime and plan for employment rights.

The UK’s currently governing Conservative Party has been in power since 2010 and will need to re-instate its commitment to the retail industry following the challenges of recent years.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson commented: “As political parties gear up for the next election, we need a different way of working with government so that we can use the industry’s size, scale and reach to deliver more. That means removing the blockages which hold the industry back, preventing it reaching its full potential.

“By delivering a more business-friendly approach to retail, the industry can deliver on its own vision – a net zero, digitally transformed industry which provides higher skilled, better paid jobs and more investment in local communities.”