Window dressing won’t save Britain’s high streets

FOLLOWING SOME very gloomy assessments about the future of the retail sector, the Government has announced its intention to ask Mary Portas, TV ‘s so called Mary Queen of Shops, to investigate how Britain’s high streets can be saved. Apparently shop vacancies in the high streets have doubled in three years.

My advice to Mr Clegg and his colleagues at BIS who have appointed the TV personality is very straightforward. If you really want to do something about protecting high streets from extinction, window dressing won’t do it for you! Instead, why not direct your energy towards supporting your parliamentary colleagues Ed Davey and Andrew George and push hard to introduce legislation to appoint a grocery adjudicator as soon as possible.

This “Ombudsman” type person was recommended by the Competition Commission back in 2008 when looking into the excessive power of major supermarket chains, and how their purchasing power is used to drive supplier prices down, and fend off possible competition from smaller retailers.

News from Parliament is that a draft bill may now only be debated in 2012, which means that an adjudicator may not be seen until 2013/2014 – a full six years after the Competition Commission report was published. Call me a bit of a cynic, but maybe the supermarket chains’ power extends way beyond price negotiating tables shared with grocery suppliers; I would imagine that they’ve got some pretty good lobbyists operating in the Westminster area too!!

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