They may be staples of every street corner and mini-community, but independent newsagents are getting a serious battering at the moment. They’re closing down at the frightening rate of one a week, research from the BBC Asian Network has revealed.
510 newsagents closed last year – an increase of 30 on the year before. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) told the BBC the stores are buckling under the competitive pressure placed on them by do-everything supermarkets, and has called on the government to do more to support the smaller outlets.
In-store crime was also blamed heavily for newsagents’ strife. "The government is not doing enough,” said the federation’s vice president Parminder Singh. “It needs to tackle retail crime because it is on the rise. It is a serious issue and we are really concerned.
"We want the government to start taking it seriously to protect independent businesses around the country."
The federation has proposed a distinction between normal and retail crime laws, and wants there to be more support available for helping independent store owners fit security equipment in store.
The government has gone to some length to help the small retail sector in general, though. We reported in July the government had started providing grants of up to £3,000 to help small business owners protect their stores against shoplifters, to go towards safety fittings such as CCTV cameras and external lights.
How much this well help reduce the shoplifting crimes that are committed once every 90 seconds in the UK, though, remains to be seen – particularly when, as seems to be the case here, many small business owners are unaware the grants are available.
If you are a struggling newsagent owner, we urge you to make the most of what the government has made available (you can find out how to apply for one of the grants by clicking on the link to July’s blog above).
And if you’re anyone else, do remember that high street retailers, particularly the smallest ones, really need our support, now more than ever. Getting all your worldly wares from a mega-supermarket might seem like the quickest, easiest way to shop, but local high streets containing nothing other than Tescos and Asdas and Sainsbury’s chains would be very soulless places indeed. We are all responsible for helping local businesses to survive.