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New vision to secure a bright future for Wales’ retail sector

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BETTER pay and conditions, greater job security, improving career progression and a commitment to creating a skilled future workforce are at the heart of a new vision to revitalise Wales’ retail sector being launched this week by the Welsh Government.

The Shared Strategic Vision for the Retail Sector sets out how the Welsh Government, the sector and trade unions will work together in social partnership to ensure retail has a bright and sustainable future in Wales, which provides fair and rewarding career opportunities for its current and future workers.

The retail sector is hugely important to the Welsh economy. It is Wales’ largest private sector employer, providing jobs to more than 114,000 people, contributing 6% of Wales’ GVA.

The Welsh Government values the jobs, goods, community services and benefits the sector provides. Ministers are committed to working with partners to support a sustainable and prospering retail sector that remains at the heart of Welsh communities, which offers people fair work and real career opportunities.

The changing face of our town centres is vital to retail and in turn our town centres need a successful and resilient retail sector.

The Vision outlines the major challenges facing the sector, and defines the key areas where action is needed.

These include:

  • Improving career opportunities within retail, with a commitment to progressively improving pay, terms and conditions beyond statutory minimums, ideally through collective bargaining.
  • Greater job security, particularly in ensuring workers being offered guaranteed hours and sufficient notice of changes in shift patterns.
  • Retail becoming an exemplar of workforce equality, diversity and inclusion – with proactive steps taken to address under-representation, occupational segregation and pay gaps.
  • Ensuring fair working conditions and a safe working environment, with retail workers having an effective voice in decisions that affect them and their working conditions.
  • Ensuring Wales’ town centres and high streets are thriving, through interventions such as investment, including ‘Transforming Towns’ regeneration investment, support for non-domestic rates and, through the Welsh Government’s Town Centre First approach, making these settings the preferred location for workplaces and services.
  • Addressing skills shortages. Building on the Welsh Government’s Plan for Employability and Skills and in partnership with the sector and trades unions, Ministers are committed to helping to provide the sector with a future-proofed workforce. The plan sets out actions to both upskill existing workers and attract new entrants to the sector.
  • Helping retailers to seize the opportunities of decarbonisation and digitalisation by, for example, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, minimising the carbon footprint of their supply chains and investing in and maximising the potential use of digital technology.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething and Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, are jointly launching the Vision today during a visit to independent bookshop, Storyville and Boots the Chemist in Pontypridd town centre.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Retail in Wales is hugely important to our economy, our communities, and our well-being as a nation. Retail is all around us in every part of Wales – in every village, town and city. We very much value the jobs, goods, community services and benefits it provides.

“Our appreciation of the retail sector, as a cornerstone of the foundational economy, has only grown through the Covid pandemic – but we know a successful and resilient retail sector does not happen by accident. That’s why it is important we nurture the environment in which it can grow and adapt, especially in response to shift to a more circular economy.

“The shared vision we are launching today commits the Welsh Government and the retail sector to an ongoing dialogue and close working to rise to the challenges ahead. We know there are no quick fixes, easy solutions, or infinite budgets. What we do have, however, is a willingness to work in social partnership, with the Welsh Government, employers, business representative bodies and trade unions working together to understand where we are now, where we want to get to, and how we can get there.

“The Welsh Government is determined to improve the quality of life and the conditions that will make Wales an attractive place for individuals and businesses to plan their futures. I firmly believe the retail sector has a vibrant future, and will continue to be a key player within the Welsh economy.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “The retail sector is heavily dependent on its workforce. A better deal for retail workers – better pay, better terms and conditions, better training and better career prospects will help the retail sector overcome workforce recruitment and retention challenges, particularly at a time of high employment. This will help project retail as a long-term career of choice and equip the workforce to deliver even better levels of customer service.

“We must ensure retail workers have a genuine voice, predominantly through their trade unions, in helping to shape their working conditions and the future of work in the sector. Embedding the spirit of social partnership – where businesses and trade unions work together – must be a cornerstone of the retail sector of tomorrow.”

Sara Jones, Head of the Wales Retail Consortium said: “The Retail Vision provides welcome recognition of the retail industry, and our workforce, by the Welsh Government. The covid pandemic shone a spotlight on just how important a role our retailers play, as drivers of the economy and as community champions at the heart of our towns. The industry continues to face structural challenges that have only been accelerated over the last two years, however we know that there are opportunities to flourish and to create sustainable high streets and ensure retail remains a career of choice for many.

“The sector has a strong tradition of innovating and being at the forefront of new ideas, to the benefit of Welsh customers, and we look forward to building on these foundations in a truly collaborative approach with policymakers and leaders at all levels. Whether it be through the industry’s Climate Action Roadmap, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, or our significant charitable giving, retailers are continuously looking at ways to promote equality and opportunity for our workforce, suppliers and our communities, and be an effective contributor to society. We look forward to the next stage of the Retail Vision and the WRC being a key partner in delivering on these aspirations.”

Nick Ireland, Usdaw Regional Secretary said: “We have been working with the Welsh Government and our social partners for some time on how we can together tackle long established issues in the retail industry and we are delighted with the Vision that they have announced today. The industry as a whole was struggling before Covid-19 with record numbers of shop closures and job losses, so the ongoing commitment to support high streets and regenerate town centres is crucial.

“We not only need to secure jobs through helping the retail industry to prosper, but they must be good jobs with decent pay, that promote equality and bring an end to insecure contracts, which we have consistently called for in our ‘New Deal for Workers’ campaign. That is best achieved through collective bargaining with trade unions, which is an important part of this Vision for retail in Wales.

“Usdaw stands ready to build on the work we have done with the Welsh Government, business representative groups and by engaging with retail employers and seeking to deliver a highly motivated, well-trained and respected workforce. For too long retail work has been undervalued, this Vision gives us the opportunity to change that and give Welsh retail staff the dignity they deserve.”

The Strategic Vision will be followed by a delivery-focussed Action Plan in the coming months.

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Business

Council wants to increase social housing stock by buying private properties. Are you selling?

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says that it is continuing efforts to increase its social housing stock in response to the current housing challenges faced in the county.

As of the end of March, there were 5545 people on the housing register, the council said. With an increased demand to provide urgent temporary housing following changes to Welsh Government policy, the Council is now using its own stock as well as B&B and other private hostel arrangements.

The Council has been and continues to proactively acquire properties, including ex-council ‘buy backs’ to add to its housing stock by using its own as well as Welsh Government funding.

This funding has been allocated to the Council in recognition of the housing pressures being faced through lack of affordable accommodation and the demands on social housing stock.

Therefore the Council is urging anyone considering selling their property to get in touch.

Last year, the Council purchased 57 properties when presented with a unique opportunity.

Cllr Michelle Bateman, the Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Given the large numbers of people on the housing register I’m pleased to see that the Council is pushing on with efforts to increase the number of properties that are available.

“Each property we acquire is another home for people and families on the housing register in Pembrokeshire and makes such a positive impact on their lives.

“We are keen to acquire affordable housing that meet our needs across the County and therefore invite anyone considering selling their property to contact the Housing department on 01437 764551.”

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Business

Milford Haven Town Council recommends new McDonald’s restaurant 

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How the Milford Haven Branch will look

MILFORD HAVEN Town Council have no objections to the application for a new McDonald’s restaurant to be built in town. 

The decision to recommend the application was made at the latest Milford Haven Town Council Planning, Policy and Community Committee meeting, following confirmation at the Full Council meeting held on Monday, June 27. 

The planning application focuses on the demolition of the former Paul Sartori Home Furnishings store at Havens Head Retail Park. 

If approved by Pembrokeshire County Council, the retail park would see a new 24-hour restaurant with a drive-through. 

Location for the proposed McDonald’s Drive Thru (Google Streetview)

All councillors at a meeting held in mid-June supported the recommendation. This came after a letter from Mr R Pugh, account director at Built Environment Communications Group, was read aloud on behalf of McDonald’s. 

The letter stated: “Job creation is particularly important in the post-Covid-19 climate, with significant challenges for young people entering the job market.

“McDonald’s will result in the creation of between 100-120 full- and part-time jobs, with a clear career path to management for employees who seek this opportunity.

“McDonald’s are committed to keeping the areas around their restaurants clean and tidy. All their restaurants are equipped with recycling facilities for customer dining inside and waste bins around the restaurant for those heading to the car park.

Plans for new McDonald’s are on the PCC website

“McDonald’s will also conduct a minimum of three daily litter picks for all litter within the vicinity of our restaurant.

“The Local Highway Authority has raised no objections to our proposals and the Transport Assessment submitted as part of our application concludes that the development proposals would not result in a material change in conditions on the local highway, with a co-ordinated parking strategy utilising spare capacity in neighbouring car parks.

“McDonald’s understands that Pembrokeshire County Council has declared a climate emergency and have a number of initiatives to reduce not only our impact on the environment, but accommodate others who also wish to do so.

“As such, our proposals include 100 per cent of power for our restaurants coming from renewable sources.”

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Business

Asda rolls out loyalty programme to all stores in Wales

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ASDA has announced it will begin a roll-out of its ‘Asda Rewards’ loyalty app to customers across Wales following a successful eight-month trial.

The roll-out will mean that customers will be able use the Asda Rewards app in any of the supermarket’s 39 stores throughout Wales.

The expansion into Wales comes after a successful trial period across 48 Asda stores in the UK, which have seen over 300,000 customers sign up to the new loyalty programme and earn a total of £2.5m worth of rewards in their personal ‘cash pot’, which they can spend in store.

Shoppers can earn Asda Rewards in three easy ways:

· By completing in-app missions, such as:

o The ‘Heinz Hero’ mission, where customers receive £2 in their Cashpot for buying 5 canned Heinz products in their shop.

o Or the ‘Back to School’ mission, which puts £5 into users Cashpots when they spend £25 on George school uniform.

· By completing ‘milestone missions’, customers rewards will build higher the more the spend over a certain period.

o Up to 10th August, customers will receive cashback for every milestone they meet, starting from spending £50 to get a 50p reward, earning as much as £25 in to their Cashpot when they hit each spend milestone.

· By buying ‘star products’ which are highlighted throughout the store.

o There are over 400 ‘Star Products’ currently available, from Asda’s Butcher’s Selection pork chops to Asda’s Extra Special cheese selection, or even Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream tubs – customers will receive 10% back into their Cashpot when they add any of these products to their basket.

Customers will see their Cashpot build in the Asda Rewards app as they shop, and they can redeem their cash whenever they choose by creating a voucher in their rewards app with the money they have saved.

The supermarket is also trialling Asda Rewards online, so customers are rewarded for home deliveries and click and collect orders too – linking their Asda Rewards app to their Asda.com account. The trial is in selected stores across the UK, with Wales being the first full region to offer Rewards both in store and online.

Mark Baxter, Senior Director for Loyalty at Asda, said: “We are really excited to be able to bring Asda Rewards to our customers in Wales. We know that customers in our other trial stores love the savvy feeling they get from using Asda rewards to earn cash for tomorrow on the products they buy today – and we’ve been making improvements to the app based on their feedback. We’re looking forward to seeing how much our customers can save by shopping with Asda rewards in Wales and hearing what they think of it before we roll it out into even more stores across the UK.”

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