Scotland's high street retailers need help to cope with rise of online giants like Amazon – Daniel Johnson MSP

The nights are drawing in, it's getting colder and Christmas is just around the corner.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 12:30 pm
Vast Amazon warehouses have sprung up all over the world (Picture: Marco de Swart/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

While we’ll all be hoping it's a festive period free from the Covid restrictions placed on us all last year, we should also spare a thought for the retail sector at this time.

Christmas represents the most important time for retail. It’s where the majority of sales will be made and where it is hoped those sales will see them through for another year.

We’re hearing worries from retail this year though. Covid has hit hard. Many businesses are barely keeping afloat and it's clear a number will not survive into next year.

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We need to take steps to support and protect our high street for what is going to be a difficult time. No one wants a sea of To Let signs to herald in the new year.

Something we should be looking at is making sure our retail businesses are on an even playing field with online competitors.

According to recent Scottish Retail Consortium figures, the number of online sales has almost doubled since the pandemic and, during February this year, 36.6 per cent of all sales made in the economy were made online.

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This is completely unsustainable for our retail stores without intervention from the government to ensure a measure of parity exists between online and physical sales.

While the majority of businesses suffered during the pandemic, it's clear that others did very well out of it. We have to recognise this and look at ways those online behemoths, such as Amazon, are paying their fair share of tax and rates, which should then be funnelled into ensuring our high streets survive. We have to try and ensure fairness exists for those struggling retail businesses without a massive online presence.

There’s no point denying our shopping habits have changed with the pandemic and were already moving more online before Covid struck but it’s only fair to ensure that those online companies pay their fair share into the system. No one wants to see a desolate high street in the future.

Retail in particular has been through a very tough time. We’ve seen household names with decades-long histories disappear overnight.

Habits have indeed changed but it's important we ensure fairness still exists.

Daniel Johnson is Scottish Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern

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