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BHF-BSSA ‘will give indies a stronger voice’

The BHF-BSSA, the new organisation for independent retailers created from last month’s merger of the British Hardware Federation (BHF) and the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA), plans to tackle vacant high street sites, out-of-town developments and quarterly rents as a matter of priority.

The new chief executive of the organisation, Alan Hawkins, said: “Regardless of the sector in which they operate, the biggest concern for independent retailers is the decline of the high street. About 12% of town centre sites are empty as councils continue to allow out-of-town developments.”

The association - to be known as BHF-BSSA until a more recognisable name is chosen in spring 2010 - will work with police and councils to encourage harsher penalties for shoplifting and antisocial behaviour. It will also lobby councils about high street access.

Hawkins added: “We are in support of environmental measures but only if they are for the right reasons. Many councils are raising tax on parking as a money-making exercise, which hits retailers hard.”

The association will also ramp up support for its monthly rent campaign to encourage councils to allow indies to pay rents monthly rather than quarterly.

The BSSA will continue to operate as a separate division, under the management of Bob Jarrett. Former BSSA chief executive John Dean has retired.

BSSA members will receive additional benefits as a result of the merger with BHF. Hawkins said: “The new association has about 9,000 members and will have a stronger voice with which to lobby government and negotiate better deals with service providers.”

Practical benefits include a reduction in credit card clearing charges, offering a 4% drop in costs compared with previous member rates. Cheque clearing charges will also fall.

BSSA members will have access to a BHF-owned bank, so they can apply for a working capital loan or a personal loan. The association also underwrites its own healthcare insurance with preferential rates.

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