Page last updated at 23:51 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 00:51 UK

Shutters down on more newsagents

By Ben Marshall
BBC Asian Network

Newagent owners in Reading
Newsagents are struggling with competition and crime, says the NFRN

Independent newsagents across the UK are closing down at a rate of more than one a day, a BBC Asian Network investigation has revealed.

A group that helps retailers says this is because they are struggling to compete with big supermarket chains, increased crime and the credit crunch.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) wants the government to rescue its declining industry.

Official figures show that 510 newsagents went bankrupt last year.

In 2007 more than 480 went bankrupt.

The NFRN blames the problem on the current economic downturn, and competition between newsagents and with supermarkets, which it says have "massive buying and marketing power".

Government help

Crime is also a big issue.

"A lot of newsagents open their shops worrying what's going to happen that day. We need the government to realise what we are facing, day in, day out," said Suleman Khonat, the federation's president.

The NFRN wants laws introduced that differentiate between a normal crime and retail crime.

Suleman Khonat and Parminder Singh of the NFRN
The NFRN is calling for more government help

It says newsagents need help fitting CCTV cameras and shutters, and are warning that if changes are not made, the local corner shop could die out completely.

Vice president Parminder Singh said: "The government is not doing enough. It needs to tackle retail crime because it is on the rise. It is a serious issue and we are really concerned.

"We want the government to start taking it seriously to protect independent businesses around the country."

He added: "We have seen our trade drop every year for the last 15 years. That's £20,000 a year gone out of my pocket.

"That's the kind of reality people need to face up to in this business."

Taxing issues

The NFRN says the government wants to cover tobacco display units in shops - so smoking products have to be stored under the counter and out of sight.

It plans to formally debate the issue on 12 October.

The federation believes this could "finish traders" and claims there is no evidence that such a move will stop young people starting smoking.

"A pack of cigarettes that costs £6 in this country is sold for less than £2 in other EU countries," said Mr Khonat.

The group wants the government to reduce tobacco tax, target smugglers and to review rules concerning grants for small businesses.

There are 17,500 newsagents affiliated with the NFRN in the UK and Ireland, but it is thought the total number of independent retailers is somewhere between 30-35,000. 75% of all independent newsagents are Asian.

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