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Formby retailer shows what can be done with the right support, says MP

Sefton Central Labour MP, Bill Esterson has praised an independent retailer in Formby for the example they set on how shops can succeed despite the very difficult trading conditions being experienced in the economy.

In a debate in Parliament this afternoon, Mr Esterson described the balance between online and physical retailing and his experience of buying a dishwasher from Smiths TV in Formby. He said that the shop in Chapel Lane in Formby was an excellent example of an “independent retailer who combines a strong online presence with excellent customer service in store.” Smiths also have stores in Ainsdale, Southport and Burscough.

Mr Esterson said, “My wife and I decided to buy a dishwasher and searched online for a local retailer. We found that Smiths TV sold dishwashers in Formby in my constituency. The website was well designed and when we went to the store, it had an attractive layout, the staff were friendly and helpful and so we bought from them, the local independent retailer, clearly doing well with four stores in Sefton and West Lancashire.”

The MP was speaking in a debate on the Development of a Retail Strategy and said that what Smiths TV did and what happened at the retail parks in Aintree were examples of how retailing could succeed. Mr Esterson went on to tell other MPs that sadly despite the examples of good practice and success, his constituency of Sefton Central faced the same crisis in retailing as the rest of the country, with betting shops, tanning salons and tattoo parlours replacing household names and previously successful independent retailers.

He criticised the government for failing to implement a retail strategy and for its new high street fund, which would only help a fraction of the high streets, which were struggling. The Sefton Central MP also said that the government’s retail council only met three times a year and was just a talking shop, which simply wasn’t delivering the change that businesses, workers and communities needed.

Mr Esterson said, “A successful retail strategy should have in place the support for businesses to harness the power of the internet and to benefit from a combination of online and offline shopping. Smiths TV show how this can work but such good practice needs far greater promotion and support and Labour’s plans for business support will maximise the benefits of technology to help business, to deliver the jobs of the future and to help communities as well.

“The challenges in retail especially in our high streets are analysed by a number of organisations. The government must listen to the British Retail Consortium, to Bill Grimsey and Mary Portas, to USDAW. All have produced excellent reviews with evidence informed recommendations to address the high costs of business rates, the lack of footfall, the lack of public transport, bank and post office closures and the need for work space and housing in town centres, good quality leisure facilities, bars, cafes and restaurants, the opportunity to re-establish public services with lots of staff near where shop keepers can benefit from their spending power.

“Retail is an industry of national importance. We are a nation of shopkeepers, but we are in danger of becoming a nation of shuttered shops. That’s why Labour’s plan, a bold and comprehensive offer that would bring customers and workers to town centres, reform the crippling system of business rates and preserve the essential heart of communities is so necessary. We have addressed the need for decent bus services, free wifi, banks, post offices, cash machines for consumers and businesses alike, all ideas designed to help, all requests made by businesses and shoppers.”

“Smiths TV show what is possible. If they can succeed as an independent retailer, so can many more. But retailers cannot do this alone. That’s why it is time now for action from the government. A proper retail strategy, working with the industry to preserve jobs and reinvigorate communities.”

Bill Esterson is the Labour MP for Sefton Central and Shadow Business and International Trade Minister. He is chairing Labour’s review into how to save the high street.

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