BRC chairman speaks out at annual dinner
British Retail Consortium chairman Sir Geoff Mulcahy has called for political action on five key issues to help the stores industry remain competitive and successful.

Speaking at last night's BRC annual dinner, he called for action to combat crime, oppose protectionism, improve the planning regime, cut red tape and strike a balance between 'social improvements', such as the minimum wage and business realities.

He said: 'It's important that retailers continue to have the ability to evolve and change. That means retailers accepting the need to be seen to be acting responsibly. In return, Government and other regulatory authorities should allow us the freedom to develop our businesses to meet the needs of our consumers. Otherwise we will cease to create wealth and jobs.'

Crime is a pressing issue for retail and Mulcahy said: 'We are very concerned about the recent consultative document that envisages no prison sentences for shoplifting, even for repeat offenders. We need to strengthen the deterrents to retail crime, not throw them away.'

Shadow chancellor George Osborne, who spoke after Mulcahy, promised to work with retailers to address their concerns. He said: 'Let's have a bargain. You help design crime out of your premises; we should get the police to give business crime a much higher priority.'

He also pledged to fight EU protectionism and said tariffs should not be imposed on shoes from China and Vietnam.