Parliament's inquiry into the retail sector comes to Gloucester
RETAILERS in Gloucester were yesterday given the chance to shape their industry nationally as a Parliamentary inquiry landed in the city.
The House of Commons Business Innovation and Skills Committee launched an inquiry into the retail sector back in March and a number of "evidence gathering" events have been held since then.
Yesterday, the committee visited Gloucester Guildhall to ask questions of key individuals in the city, who were also invited to air their views on the retail picture both locally and nationally.
The inquiry is examining the impact of business rates on the retail sector as the Select Committee, which is chaired by Adrian Bailey, MP for West Bromwich West, wants retailers to submit evidence on regulations and costs affecting them.
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Mr Bailey said: "One thing that emerged from the event in Gloucester was that small, independent retailers may not necessarily have the correct skillset to maximise their business.
"For example, maybe they aren't utilising their website or social media well enough.
"So there is an urgent need to find an offer of training to small businesses.
"Also, the business rates nowadays no longer reflect the economic situation. The valuations are no longer representative of the times we are in."
He added: "The event in Gloucester was very positive, and I must say we are thankful to Mary Portas for making all this sexy."
Peter White, executive director for marketing and customer services at Gloucestershire College, was one of the individuals invited to speak at the event.
He said: "I thought it was really good.
"We covered a range of topics, all of which were retail related of course.
"I was talking about skills and raising awareness of retail opportunities through careers advice and guidance.
"Retail is often seen as not as important as other career paths, but it is hugely important."
He added: "Obviously speaking with the college in mind, I spoke about how we could get larger retailers to give younger people valuable work experience so they could appreciate retail more and really get under the skin of it.
"I also stated how important students are for footfall. We have 6,000 right next to the city centre, they are very important for retail.
"We were all asked for our opinions on the Portas and Grimsey reports too."
TV star Mary Portas made proposals to save the country's high streets, which were later slammed by Bill Grimsey, the former boss of DIY chain Wilkes and supermarket group Iceland.
Mr White added that discussions were also had about the committee possibly returning to Gloucester in the future.
Members of the public were invited to attend the meeting, but only a handful did.