Retail Industry Leadership Group meeting minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 8 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

ILG members

  • Tom Arthur, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth and ILG Co-Chair (Minister)
  • Andrew Murphy, Chief Operating Officer, John Lewis Partnership and ILG co-Chair (AM)
  • Reuben Chesters, Project Manager, Locavore (RC)
  • Dr Pete Cheema, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers’ Federation (PC)
  • Jackie Cuddy, Centre Manager, Eastgate Shopping Centre (JC)
  • Robert Deavy, Scotland Organiser, GMB (RD)
  • Tracy Gilbert, Regional Secretary, Usdaw (TG)
  • Debbie Harding, Chief Corporate Officer, Dobbies (DH)
  • Sonya Harper, Central Operations Director, CJ Lang & Son (SH)
  • Polly Jones, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs, Scotland, Asda (PJ)
  • David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium (DL)
  • Tony McElroy, Head of Communications and Devolved Government Relations, Tesco (TM)
  • Andrew McRae, Policy Chair - Federation of Small Business (A McR)
  • Mo Razzaq, National (UK) Deputy Vice President, National Federation of Independent Retailers (MR)
  • Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association (CS)
  • Chris Tiso, Director, Graham Tiso Ltd. (CT)

Apologies received

  • Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland


  • Andrea Glass, Head of Regions and Enabling Sectors, Skills Development Scotland (AG)

Scottish Government

  • Catherine Brown, Head of Retail and Cities Policy (CB)


  • Anne Buchanan, Retail Strategy and Delivery Team Leader
  • Celeste Wilson, Senior Policy Officer, Retail Strategy and Delivery
  • Jane Macfarlane, Policy Officer, Retail Strategy and Delivery


  • Lucy Brown, Operations Programme Director, John Lewis Partnership (LB)
  • Iain Hamilton, Head of Creative Industries, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (IH)
  • Bethany Handysides McKechnie, Skills Development Scotland

Items and actions

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The Minister welcomed attendees to the second meeting of the Retail Industry Leadership Group (ILG) and provided an overview of the Agenda. He advised the Group that he would have to leave immediately after the Cost Crisis discussion to attend another meeting. 

He highlighted that the Food Retail Summit was being held on 10 November and offered an invite to any ILG members who had not received one. TG said that Usdaw had not received one and, given the impact on retail workers, it was important that workers voice was represented at the Summit.

Action: Secretariat to arrange an invitation to the Food Retail Summit for TG and any other members who require one.

AM noted apologies from Meryl Halls and welcomed Dr Pete Cheema to his first ILG meeting. He also advised members that Nick Peel has requested that he stand down from the ILG. 

He confirmed that all members had received advanced copies of the Agenda and associated papers including the Terms of Reference and that a record of the minutes of the previous meeting had already been agreed and published. He highlighted a proposed amendment to the Terms of Reference in order to provide additional flexibility to the numbers of ILG members required. 

Minutes and Actions were noted and the revision to the Terms of Reference was agreed. 

Cost crisis

In his remarks, the Minister highlighted:

  • that the UK Government’s mini-budget and Scottish Government’s Programme for Government set out the immediate response to the cost crisis
  • in addition to £560m savings announced on 7 September, the Emergency Budget Review (EBR) announced a further £615m of savings through re-prioritisation work and also confirmed a range of additional support in response to the cost crisis, including a joint taskforce with COSLA
  • the Scottish Government will continue to do what it can to press the UK Government for additional support 
  • he added that if there was anything that he could do to support/ help attract footfall in the coming weeks to advise the Secretariat

Points raised in discussion:

Emergency Budget Review (raised by DL)

  • DL noted that inflation was at an 18-year high, commented on the EBR regulatory front and referenced DFM’s tax discussion paper / COSLA joint taskforce
  • Mr Arthur’s response was that - given the level of volatility – awaiting the detail of the Fiscal Statement on 17 November which will provide a clearer picture

Deposit Return Scheme (raised by CS, PC, MR)

  • Scottish Grocers Federation is pushing for equal representation with supermarkets but say obstacles remain for the convenience sector
  • latest proposals from Circularity Scotland and SG on ‘exemptions to all’ only help supermarkets and affect others’ ability to keep prices low
  • this is the biggest change to the convenience sector in years with potentially a £500m plus impact
  • implications for wholesale, retail, resellers and hospitality industries. Several wholesalers are in negotiations on future ownership with one already been taken over
  • there are fractured supply chains – how can the burden on small businesses be reduced?

Business Support (raised by AMcR)

  • latest data shows 1 in 6 small businesses are shutting down
  • retention of the Small Business Scheme very welcomed and proved to be a lifeline for some small businesses.
  • planning applications – must allow for firms to innovate, adapt and invest

In-work and food poverty (raised by TG, CS, SH)

  • most recent Usdaw data shows 1 in 4 members are going without food compared with 1 in 20 last year
  • seeing a rise in crime/shoplifting/ abuse of staff 
  • CS advised he also shared the recent data provided to the Secretariat with DFM
  • SH advised that colleagues’ discount at CJ Lang has been increased to 20%
  • providing mental health support and have increased their value range campaign and food bank provision
  • requests from communities for donations have also increased

Fuel costs and supply chain (raised by CS, SH)

  • fuel costs are impacting on distribution companies
  • CJ Lang has introduced a small food levy to help rural stores

Protection of Workers (raised by MR, TG, CS, SH, AM)

  • retail crime, violence towards staff and assaults are all increasing 
  • small retailers with fewer staff are more vulnerable
  • concerns about Police response times
  • intimidation includes threats of violence and petrol bombing etc
  • the response needs to be balanced between enforcement agencies and employers for supporting staff 

Non-Domestic Rates (raised by TG)

  • NDR are at their highest level for 20 years

Action points:

  • Usdaw to forward its latest data for Secretariat to share with the ILG
  • any requests for Ministerial support to be routed through the Secretariat

The Minister left

Fair Work Working Group (FWWG) – Tracy Gilbert

Key points:

  • thanks to those who put their names forward
  • noting Nick Peel’s departure from the ILG, TG and DL are meeting 21 November
  • TG is seeking experts outwith the ILG to provide a broader vision and asked for any suggestions to be forwarded to the Secretariat
  • on the timeframe, while wanting to be ambitious it is more important that the work is not rushed but fully considered and so is seeking an amendment to the Delivery Plan completion date of February 2023 to spring 2023, which was agreed
  • TG will provide a more detailed update at the next meeting

Action: ILG members to forward contact details of potential subject matter experts to join the FWWG to the Secretariat.

Retail skills audit and action plan - Andrea Glass

AG thanked those who had engaged with the process - 14 consultations held to date have provided useful insight to begin to scope out the Retail Skills Action Plan (RSAP).

AG then talked through each of the presentation slides which was followed by a Group discussion, prompted by four pre-determined questions:

Q1 Are there others that we need to engage with to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the sector?

  • TG - questioned individual growth for the employee. Training and investment in staff is becoming a short-term fix to achieve a specific task, not investment in the individual
  • TG - suggested engaging Engender or another equalities group to reflect the high proportion of BAME and older women in the sector and offered to organise focus groups of retail workers if that would be helpful. Need to consider reach as not all employees will have access to the internet, smart phones etc
  • AG welcomed employee voice – Equal Opportunities and Diversity and Inclusion runs across all skills programmes
  • DL proposed linking in with the British Retail Consortium’s Learning arm
  • CT had not yet input to the process and offered a separate catch-up to AG
  • AM requested the inclusion of apprentices on existing skills pathways

Q2 From a skills perspective are some parts of the sector more in need of support than others? And if so – what would be the rationale for focusing efforts in this way?

  • TG – as more businesses are struggling, investment is the first thing likely to go. In work benefits and driving up wages is a priority. There will be a gender/ equalities view to consider especially in smaller, out of town retail
  • JC – the negative perception about retail jobs could be offset by proactive and positive promotion of opportunities
  • CS – helpful to understand what training is available and where; there are packages and training programmes but how do people find that information? There’s a focus on school-leavers, the young and out of work not those already in work and what’s available for upskilling and career development
  • RC – should embrace operational diversity – as a local organic produce enterprise, off the shelf training doesn’t really fit. Disparity between those who have organic food knowledge but don’t want to work in a shop, and those with retail experience but aren’t bought into the business ethos. AG was happy to pick up on this offline

Q3 Should the RSAP be focused on a number of ‘themes’, e.g. digital, upskilling, green/ just transition and diversity and inclusion. Are there any other big trends we need to know?

  • AM – right to build thematically but a robust filter is required to avoid thematic overloaded and to be able to cut through to deliverable actions. Proposed consolidation and then prioritisation. He recommended a phased delivery approach which AG agreed
  • TG suggested that the RSAP should also focus on barriers too

Q4 Should the focus of the RSAP be on the issues over which we have leverage and can therefore make a difference? 

  • AM – should aim to get things going within the first six months and also include long-term/ sectoral industry trends. In the short-term on green and digital, the entire workforce needs upskilled
  • CT - lead times should not be too long, there needs to be quick deliverables and a reality around environmental and economic factors in play. In addition to finding relevant things that can be done, opportunities need to be marketed so they are easy to find and accessible
  • CS – retail workforce has crossover skills with other sectors such as tourism and hospitality so worth investigating what’s on offer or being developed there 
  • TG – retail is a low paid job and perceived as such: need to drive up wages. Fair Work agenda should also pick up on the Skills focus. The Union Learning Fund is available through trade unions working with employers that recognise them

Action points:

  • expressions of interest or nominations for WG members for a RSAP Working Group to be sent to the Secretariat
  • secretariat to share SDS slides with the ILG

Any other business

Focus for next ILG meeting 

AM has proposed that Place should be the focus for the next meeting:

  • should build awareness of crossover with existing groups such as the City and Town Centres Action Group. The ILG should only be involved if it can consolidate and cement activity already underway
  • content that the first few ILG meetings have been about setting the tone for future working and building a shared understanding of the challenges but expects that in 2023, meetings will be more action-orientated and focussed on outcomes

Date and format of next meeting

  • DL requested an in-person meeting
  • AM proposed using AQ5 again

Action: Secretariat will check diary availability and advise date and location of next ILG Meeting.

Final comments

AM asked that the ILG has early sight of any activities that might cut across the work of the ILG. 

Secretariat agreed to share the output of the ILG Cost Crisis discussion with the Minister and those organising the Food Retail Summit. 

Action: Secretariat to summarise Cost Crisis discussion and share with Minister/Policy Team.

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