The Welsh Retail Consortium has today, Thursday 11 February, launched their retail manifesto for the 2021 Welsh Parliamentary elections. The manifesto provides core recommendations to the next Welsh Parliament and Government to help provide a sustainable footing for Welsh retail as it aims to recover from the enormous challenges and cost pressures it currently faces.

The outline paper from the leading industry representative group comes ahead of the Senedd election scheduled for 6 May. The paper covers devolved policymaking, business and personal taxation, regulation, skills, retail crime, sustainability, the UK internal market and further devolution.

The retail industry makes a significant economic and social contribution to Wales, including employing 120,000 people and contributing over 25 per cent of all business rates, and the WRC’s members range from well-known high street, out-of-town, online and grocery retailers.

The Welsh Retail Consortium’s key recommendations for the next Welsh Government are to deliver:

  • And implement a Welsh Retail Enabling Strategy
  • A policy moratorium for one year after the suppression of the Covid-19 virus to allow businesses to recover
  • The most competitive business tax system in the UK and a firm timetable to substantially lower the headline business rates multiplier
  • Income Tax policies which do not increase the cost of living for ordinary consumer
  • More flexible Retail Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks and simplified access to apprenticeship levy contributions
  • A collaborative approach to with retail to tackle climate change by building on the industry's ground-breaking Climate Action Plan

Commenting on the launch, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium Sara Jones said:
“This Senedd election comes as the industry hits the very apex of the current retail revolution. Covid has accelerated the existing trends in retail: including driving customers towards digital, weakened demand, and put retailers under unparalleled pressure. Last year saw the worst ever retail sales figures, with shopper footfall down over 50 per cent and Wales having the highest shop vacancy rate in the UK with almost one in five shops standing empty.  Retail was already in a difficult position before 2020 but Covid has exposed and exacerbated the many challenges the industry was grappling with. 

“The next Welsh Government and MSs will have to respond to this reality. A more coherent approach to the industry led by a retail enabling strategy which protects ordinary consumers and provides a competitive tax system will provide a framework that can help retail to recover. The next Welsh Government will need to make brave and bold choices to help the industry weather the storm. It is imperative decision makers work with the industry to help retailers recover from the current challenges, rebuilding the sector’s foundation whilst revitalising opportunities for economic growth and regeneration. Conversely, if the opportunity is lost then there could be severe consequences for businesses and communities across Wales”.

The WRC Manifesto can be downloaded below.