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Scrutiny panel says retailers face challenge

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IMPROVED customer service training, developing staff skills and better use of technology could help revive Jersey’s retail sector, a new backbench report has found.

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The Retail in Jersey report, which was published last week by the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel, found that the Island’s retailers faced an ‘enormous challenge’ bringing local customers back into their stores owing to rivalry from online retailers.

It also said that the sector faced difficulties stemming from increased taxes, parking, high rents and Brexit. It adds that the ‘de minimis’ limit rule, which allows online retailers to sell goods worth less than £240 in Jersey without incurring GST, ‘goes against’ the States’ principle of ‘low, broad, simple and fair’ taxation.

In the report, the panel makes 15 recommendations on how it believes matters could be improved for the retail sector, including shops providing customer service training courses for all new staff and increased use of new technologies.

It also recommends that the Economic Development Department should collect more comprehensive data to help assist ‘effective management’ of the sector.

The report also supports the deregulation of Sunday trading, which is expected to be brought forward as a government proposal next year, but called for workers’ right to worship and to spend time with their family to be protected, if it happens.

Panel chairman Deputy Kirsten Morel said that the retail sector played a ‘major role’ in the Island’s economy.

‘The retail sector generates around £38 million in GST and employs close to 8,000 people,’ he said.

‘There’s no doubt that the sector has experienced difficult times in recent years and the challenges it faces are ongoing.

‘However, the panel has found that the outlook can remain positive if retailers and authorities such as the Economic Development Department and the Parish of St Helier remain flexible and open to new ideas.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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