Sian Harrington
Asda president and chief executive Tony DeNunzio is to chair a new Retail Strategy Group backed by the DTI.
The group will focus on identifying the barriers to improving competitiveness in the sector and finding ways of eliminating them. Announcing the initiative at the British Retail Consortium's annual dinner this week, secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt said its formation was the result of listening to retailers. "This will help industry and government work more closely together to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the sector," she said.
DeNunzio will begin by establishing the composition of the group and agreeing its terms of reference. Volunteers from across retail are being sought, with the first meeting in January.
The announcement was part of a package aimed at removing red tape. Hewitt said she was determined to turn around the perception retail was viewed by government as a "Cinderella". "We're looking to get better at the way we consult," she said.
The new approach, she said, would be to regulate only where necessary and to make sure it was as "light a touch as possible". She also said the government would scrap un-necessary regulation.
As a first step, the Regulatory Reform Act will abolish the notification procedure for Sunday trading, whereby retailers have to write to local authorities every time they want to change their opening hours.
BRC chairman David Felwick said the government's attitude to retailing had improved in 2002.

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