Bringing in GST, too little parking, restrictive opening hours and too much red tape are just some of the major problems facing Jersey shops, according to a new States report. It also says the Economic Development Minister has been too slow to tackle those issues, and describes the Island's main markets as tired, underwhelming and not open for long enough.
The report's been published by the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel, and lists a variety of problems for retailers, headed by the growth of online shopping, which is thought to account for at least £7,000 per household, a total of £258m per year. It also cites GST as one of the reasons for the sector's decline, as it means that goods bought locally incur an extra 5% charge, compared to online competitors.
The report urges the Economic Development Department to talk to international online retailers about collecting GST on Jersey-based purchases, which would effectively make them more expensive.
The Panel's Chairman, St Martin Deputy Steve Luce, commented:
‘The full range of challenges facing Jersey’s retail sector are many and diverse. Parking, buses, customer service, the whole “shopping experience”, they all play their part. It would be wrong, however, not to highlight the internet as the single most important threat that local shops face in this day and age.’
‘To keep our retail areas alive and vibrant we all need to work together, as there is no “one off” solution to these problems. We will need to involve a range of stakeholders including a real cross section the Council of Ministers. Planning, Environment, Transport, Economic, Treasury, not to mention the Constables, all have a part to play in working together to make visiting St. Helier and other retail areas a positive and worthwhile experience, one that cannot be replicated on the internet.’
Jersey's retail sector employs more than 8,000 people, but its performance in 2012 was at its lowest level since 1998.
In a wide ranging report, the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel calls for scratch cards to be replaced in the majority of public car parks, for the markets to be open on Thursday afternoons, for pedestrianisation to be considered in Halkett Place, for it to made easier to organise events and for Planning Department 'red tape' to be reduced.
In particular, it highlights the role which could be played by the Central and the Fish Markets, which it says could be the "jewell in the crown", of shopping in town, drawing more people in to the shops. However, it says that while they are, "...architecturally attractive, the markets fail to live up to such expectations and radical change has been widely called for to improve on their tired atmosphere and generally underwhelming offering".
There are 55 findings in the report which include:
"In general, Jersey retailers have not fully reacted to changing customer habits and are potentially restricting shopping opportunities through outdated ‘9 to 5’ opening hours. Later closing times on a more regular basis have been identified as being attractive to shoppers".
"Amending current weekday/Saturday trading hours would appear to be a greater priority than changes to Sunday trading...Certain negative impacts that might result from the proposed Sunday trading trial, such as small business closures due to increased competition from larger retailers, could be irreversible".
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