We hope to stimulate government ministers, civil servants and local authorities to recognise the importance of small shops on the high streets. We use the term ‘high street’, but it could be a suburban shopping centre, a village or small shops
I would like to see progress on planning issues and making access to high streets better. I’m also looking for more support for town centre management partnerships, which are partnerships between local authorities and local traders to improve town centres.
Parking will continue to be a major issue. The supermarkets recognise this. They provide a lot of free parking, as well as free buses, for people without cars to access their stores. People want an easy way to do their shopping.
The year ahead is going to be difficult because the National Minimum Wage, which was last increased in October, is starting to have an effect, as are high energy prices. People that are not proactive in running their businesses, that don’t react by adjusting pricing and costing, are going to get a shock when their accounts come in in a year’s time.
I think the outcome of world trade talks could have an effect on agricultural prices, which could affect grain prices and vegetable oils. We’ve already seen an effect on sugar prices (following an overhaul of the European sugar subsidy regime.)
These changes could affect the industry in the longer term, either in a positive or a negative way. As far I’m concerned, I shall retire this year after 40 years in the baking industry.