There is a telling phrase tucked away at the end of the Subway article on page 9 this week. Brian Griffiths, MD of EIPC, the company which manages the buying for Subway’s franchisees says: “There is a prevalence of parking fines here (in the UK), which is reflected in costs.”
A few weeks ago, Peter Coughlan, my local craft baker in Croydon, told me he had just had two parking fines, of £80 each, in a week, while one of his vans was delivering his goods. It is a typical occurrence happening all over the UK. But it is just not good enough.
Parking and deliveries must be tackled in the House of Commons by the All Party Small Shops Group, thankfully set up by Jim Dowd MP (Labour). The Group is already making inroads.
But I also believe it is time for the ingredients companies, millers and equipment companies that supply small shops to join in supporting them. Why leave your customers to struggle alone?
Unlike you, they don’t have marketing people. Surely your expertise can help? And surely, when the Association of Ingredient Manufacturers (ABIM) and the National Association of British and Irish Millers (NABIM) meet regularly, you can appoint a lobbying committee to sit alongside technical, social or other committees? The National Association of Master Bakers (NA) and the Scottish Association are too small to be really effective, although the NA’s David Smith is working very hard alongside Mr Dowd.
It is a reflection of the times we live in, but you only get anywhere these days if you lobby. The British Retail Consortium does a fantastic job of cross-party lobbying for the supermarkets.
Time and again, I hear from craft bakers that all they want is a ‘level playing field’. No lobbying equals no level playing field – in fact, no level anything.
There needs to be a whole change of culture in this country, with an ethos to support small shops via parking, via rates, via red tape. It exists in Europe, so why not over here?
Of course we still want to shop in our supermarkets, but mums with young children and our ageing population also need community shops to be viable. Meanwhile, office workers should be able to buy sandwiches on their busy high streets without having to pay the built-in cost of parking fines.