Smaller retailers are feeling the brunt of HFSS confusion | Comment & Opinion

After months of confusion, rumours, leaks and delays, regulations restricting the placement of products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) are already in place and affect thousands of retailers across England.

For many, hundreds of hours of planning and thousands of pounds of investment have gone into understand and implement changes required to comply. So where do we meet the regulations, what comes next, and what should we learn from these regulations for the future?

One of the biggest areas of confusion around the introduction of HFSS regulations has been which companies are included and which are exempt. The government saw fit to include thousands of small businesses in the regulations through their affiliation with token groups, despite seeing them as small businesses in other policy areas, such as business tariffs and energy.

This has led to a wave of legal opinions being sought from groups to try to get some clarity on which shops on their properties are included. All of this could have been avoided if the government had been consistent in its approach to what it considers a small business, and we hope that the new ministers, who have already extolled the virtues of supporting business and removing regulations, will accept symbol group stores . as what they are: companies run by independent retailers.

As it is, there are now thousands of companies that have had to rearrange, refurbish, and reinvent their stores at great expense, awaiting a possible visit from an overzealous police officer with a tape measure. We learned from the pandemic that while most officers are pragmatic and supportive, there will be a minority that will seek to talk retailers out of technicalities or enforce their own interpretation of the rules (remember the Easter eggs/essentials debacle of 2020).

We provide guaranteed advice through the primary authority scheme that we run for our members. The coming weeks and months will no doubt raise more questions about the minutiae of the regulations, the spirit of the regulations, and the exemption criteria, so work is not remotely done on the immediate location restrictions, and there’s a good chance that he will have a similar conversation again in 12 months about promotional restrictions.

In Welsh Y Scotlandwhere retailers have so far avoided HFSS regulations, there are active inquiries considering similar regulations in each management. However, these consultations are not just a copy and paste of what England is dealing with: they both seek to go even further. In addition to the existing restrictions, both have suggested prohibiting any type of temporary price reduction on HFSS products (for example, a 10% discount during a promotional period). They have also proposed different criteria for which companies would be exempt.

The worst possible outcome for retailers and suppliers operating across the UK is a different regulatory framework in each country: there is enough confusion with one set of rules already, but adhering to three will be nothing short of a nightmare.

The HFSS regulations are part of a broader government strategy to reduce childhood obesity levels and improve the nation’s health. Health, which in turn is intended to relieve pressure on the NHS. But we cannot see any robust evaluation criteria for the success or failure of specific interventions, such as the location restrictions that have just come into effect. The problem is that if obesity rates don’t improve, the government hits a fork in the road: either it thinks the restrictions don’t go far enough and are tougher on businesses, or it thinks the restrictions don’t really do that much. difference and abandon them altogether.

In the long term, we need to know what the government considers successful political intervention, because for retailers so far it has been the opposite.

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