British retailers have said that incoming UK Prime Minister Liz Truss will 'need to demonstrate strong leadership as the cost-of-living crisis deepens', following her appointment as the new Conservative Party leader yesterday.
In a statement, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, congratulated Truss on her appointment, adding that the retail industry is "ready to work with the new government to shore up consumer confidence and help deliver economic growth".
She added that businesses are eager for clarity on the government's intentions "as soon as possible", so that they can understand the inflationary impact of policy decisions.
“One immediate way the Government can help retailers support their customers is to freeze the business rates multiplier for all retail businesses for the next financial year, protecting the industry from rates increases linked to inflation, and giving greater scope to hold down prices, protect jobs, and support the economy," Dickinson added.
Elsewhere, the British Independent Retailers Association has called on the new Prime Minister to 'immediately address' the economic challenges facing the country, and deliver support for the high street.
"We hope that as well as campaigning to secure the votes, the new Prime Minister has also been working on plans to address the immediate economic challenges, both short term and medium term," commented Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre.
"Bira has been raising concerns since last October and we have continued to work with government departments to help them understand the challenges faced by retailers and the high street in general."
Among the measures that Bira has called for in the short term are financial supports for smaller retailers facing significant energy cost increases; measures to improve consumer confidence; exploring measures to reduce VAT; and the introduction of a grant or loan system that encourages smaller businesses to invest in energy saving technology.
Food Industry Red Tape
Ahead of her confirmation as Prime Minister, Truss had promised to remove “onerous EU regulations and red tape” within the British food sector, as well as tackle labour shortages in farming with a short term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme.
On this, Food and Drink Federation Karen Betts commented last week, "I'm delighted to see Liz Truss putting food production at the heart of her leadership campaign today. Food and drink manufacturers of all kinds and their staff across the UK work tirelessly to ensure delicious, affordable and safe food and drink is available to everyone, everywhere, every day.
“But we need to work with the government to tackle soaring inflation, which is straining household budgets and putting businesses in our sector under real pressure. Rethinking and streamlining regulation, along with finding solutions to skills and labour shortages and opportunities to boost productivity, would make a huge difference.”
From Campaign To Policy
According to investment platform AJ Bell, the markets are likely to be watching closely over the coming days to see what pledges Truss made during the campaign trail are set to become policy.
'Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and many of them feel utterly unable to plot a course through what’s expected to be an extremely challenging winter,' it said.
'Consumer facing services are the most vulnerable, confronted with the double whammy of rising costs and falling consumer demand. Retailers, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and gyms have listened to the promises that have been made by the new prime minister, but now the contest is over businesses need practical solutions, and they need them fast.'