Getting the Right Change – retail strategy for Scotland

This strategy contains current initiatives and future actions to help fulfil our vision for the retail sector in a fair, sustainable way. By delivering on its actions we aim for successful, profitable retail businesses, creation of new, better jobs and to become an exemplar for inclusive growth.

Foreword by the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth

A strong, prosperous and vibrant retail sector is essential to the vision of a wellbeing economy described in Scotland’s new ten-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation. Shops and retailers support local communities; attract people into our towns and cities; utilise local supply chains; offer fulfilling employment and support other economic sectors such as tourism and hospitality. Retail is part of our everyday experience – whether we’re getting our weekly food shopping, making an online purchase or a social activity with friends.

With more than 240,000 people working in retail across Scotland, it is the largest private sector employer in Scotland, employing a high proportion of women and young people and a diverse representation of minority ethnic workers. With opportunities for entry into the workforce, career progression and flexible working, a job in retail is a career choice for many. In addition to direct employment, retail is a necessary and vital component in the wider supply chain such as manufacturers, hauliers and wholesalers.

The critical nature of retail as a foundation of our economy and society has been particularly evident throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Many retailers were able to pivot their operations so that the delivery of lifeline products and services to their customers could continue – including those who were vulnerable or shielding. Their co-operation and the dedication and flexibility of their staff has been crucial in meeting these unprecedented challenges, and I wish to record my gratitude to all involved.

The retail sector is diverse and dynamic, and undergoing a significant transformation, with changes in consumer behaviour, technological advances and accelerated growth in online shopping. Retailers have a proven record of entrepreneurial and innovative approaches to meet customers’ needs and provide the best possible shopping experience. This will stand the sector in good stead as it evolves to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, not least the global climate emergency which will require new business models with greener jobs and services.

At the outset of developing this retail strategy, a vision for a retail sector in Scotland was agreed; one that would see Scotland’s retail sector thrive through a process of positive change and innovation, offering quality goods, experiences and services. Achieving it would be through the sector embracing business development opportunities that foster sustainable growth; protect the environment; cultivate entrepreneurship; strengthen supply chains; support wellbeing; and ensure that retail offers secure, well-paid and rewarding employment.

Through focussing on Sector, People and Place, the strategy contains both current initiatives and future actions that will help to fulfil that vision in a fair and sustainable way. It sets out why putting Fair Work and skills front and centre of this strategy can bring tangible benefits to both businesses and employees through helping them to become more attractive to workers, more resilient, productive and profitable. It also sets out why a Just Transition approach is needed to achieve a net zero and climate resilient economy and a profitable and prosperous retail sector.

Developing this strategy has been a collaborative effort with trade unions, business and industry experts working together with the public sector to identify interventions that will make a real difference to retail businesses and those who work for them. I would like to thank each person who contributed their insights, ideas, constructive challenge and commitment throughout the process.

This strategy does not sit in isolation but is one component in a wider economic and social framework. It is a key element in our place-based approach to supporting the recovery and development of our cities, towns and neighbourhoods, enabling communities to make the most of local economic assets.

Through delivering on the actions set out in this strategy, our aim is for retail businesses to be successful, profitable and to create new and better jobs, becoming an exemplar for inclusive growth. Together, we can build a fairer, greener and stronger Scotland.

Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth



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