Call for UK Government to 'pay the postage' on local stores' online retailing

A motion has been laid at Westminster calling for the UK Government to pay the postage for online shopping from local retailers to make shopping from small shops a more viable option for lockdown buyers.

By Jane Bradley
Thursday, 19th November 2020, 4:45 pm
Many local shops have turned to online delivery for the first time during the pandemic.
Many local shops have turned to online delivery for the first time during the pandemic.

MP Christine Jardine said the move could save the high street amid further covid restrictions announced in Scotland and level the playing field for small businesses tying to compete with online shopping giants such as Amazon.

The move comes days after The Scotsman launched a campaign, #SupportLocal, to help boost business for local companies in the run up to the festive season. Record numbers of people are expected to shop on the internet in the run-up to Christmas this year.

As of Tuesday, 11 local council areas are now in Level 4 covid regulations, meaning non-essential shops are closing for three weeks. In response, the Scottish Retail Consortium estimates that this will affect more than 45 per cent of non-essential shops in Scotland, and those shops will lose out on more than £90 million per week in lost revenue whilst they are closed.

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The Early Day Motion (EDM) states that such a scheme could incentivise shoppers to buy from a variety of local businesses and calls on the government remove the “delivery cost burden” which many shops are now facing.

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David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed the idea.

He said: “Ms Jardine is absolutely right, this is the worst possible time of the year to be closing shops. Even before the Level 4 announcements this week many stores were already under the most enormous pressure as a result of Covid, associated restrictions and costs, and economic uncertainty which is bearing down on consumers. Indeed shopper footfall has slumped by a third on last year.

"Whether small or large, many shops need a strong November and December to help tide them over the lean winter period. We are open to all ideas which help stimulate consumer spending, but the absolute priority must be government giving a precise time as to when shops can re-open on 11 December, and action from councils to cut or scrap parking charges to reignite consumer confidence between then and the end of the year.”

Ms Jardine said: “Small businesses in my constituency of Edinburgh West, and across Scotland are under increasing pressure because of the prospect of being shut during what is traditionally the key trading period of the year for many and deserve the same support as “Eat out to Help Out” offered hospitality.

“That’s why I believe that this campaign to get the Government to pay the postage fee for independent businesses would make a real difference in a tough climate for small business and shops who cannot compete with free postage offers from online shopping giants.”

She added: “What I’m asking for in this EDM is very simple- this Government must live up to its stated commitment to do “whatever it takes” and do this to support independent business properly by creating a level the playing field and give small businesses the chance to survive in the online market.”

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