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The Independent Culture
The director-general of the British Retail Consortium responds to our criticisms of supermarkets

THE ISSUES of social exclusion are complex and retailers are caught up in the same circle of decline in socially vulnerable areas together with schools, doctors' surgeries and other amenities. It is a chicken and egg argument whether the decline of an area is accelerated by the demise of its shops or whether the shops close or leave because it becomes increasingly difficult to make a living. Harassment, abuse and criminal damage so diminish the quality of life of many retailers that it is frequently the last straw in an already terminal illness for the area.

Retailing is a business and needs to be encouraged to remain, or re-enter, areas which have demonstrated severe social problems over a long period of time, without any obvious attempt at trying to solve the deep-seated problems.

BRC sees great promise in the Government's determination, for the first time, to tackle the issue of social exclusion.

The health of an estate is not a series of disparate issues, but requires a holistic solution to ensure that all aspects of life and community are encouraged to flourish. Here, retailers have an important role to play in supporting this process.

They need to be assured that there are clear, working strategies in place to deal with underlying problems, not merely some series of episodic interventions. They need to be encouraged to invest through guarantees of a sympathetic reception of planning applications to ensure premises are crime-proof.

Retailing is part of the process of regeneration, and must and will play its part, but it will do little good to throw the odd sacrificial retailer to the wolves if it only results in further disillusion and bankruptcy.