More support should be extended to rural convenience stores in levelling-up plan, says ACS

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Rural businesses are central to government’s “ambitious” levelling up agenda, said Minister for Rural Affairs Lord Benyon, responding to the calls by a retailers’ association that more support should be extended to rural convenience stores.

According to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) Rural Shop Report, launched today (25), half of rural stores operate with no other retail or service businesses nearby act as a lifeline for their customers.

It said that these stores should not be forgotten by the government as it carries out its levelling-up strategy.

As well as providing a walk-in convenience store, rural shops often provide local delivery services (29 per cent), cash machines (48 per cent) and post offices (22 per cent), says the report.

“Rural businesses are central to this Government’s ambitious levelling up agenda,” Lord Benyon said.

“This report illustrates the vital role which rural shops play in sustaining their communities, both through their significant economic contribution and as valuable social hubs. The report also demonstrates their fundamental resilience and the success of government initiatives to help such businesses keep going throughout the pandemic.

“By better understanding the needs and experiences of rural businesses, we can continue to help rural areas grow and improve as we build back better.”

ACS report also shows that if the local shop disappeared, customers would have to travel an average of 3.3 miles to find another place to get what they need.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said, “Rural shops are a lifeline to thousands of communities and have gone above and beyond to ensure that they can keep providing essentials throughout all of the disruption caused by supply chain issues and the ongoing pandemic. This is despite rural shops facing significant additional challenges compared to their more urban counterparts – thousands of rural shops do not have adequate broadband or mobile coverage, and many are at the farthest tip of their supply chains struggling to get a choice of supply and the full range of products their customers need.

“Providing targeted support to rural shops and other rural businesses must be integral to the Government’s levelling up agenda to ensure that the gap between rural stores and their urban counterparts doesn’t widen even further.”