Blog : Weathering the storm in retail – how the real Living Wage can help

By Michael Apter, Managing Director, Paper Tiger

Paper Tiger has been a participating business in the real Living Wage campaign for almost ten years, and was one of the first independent retailers in Scotland to gain accreditation.  

The decision to join was one that came with costs – and responsibilities. However, as a forward-looking business it was the correct thing to do for our team and for the business. The annual rise is not just about the money – it is also reaffirms the positive commitment to the team. That decision has clear financial benefits for them in terms of managing the cost of living – and it does mean living rather than existing! 

Paying the real Living Wage also provides my business with a clear benchmark for competitiveness. This helps me in a number of ways – staff loyalty is improved which has benefits for productivity and knowledge retention, and paying a fair wage improves motivation and commitment to the job. Over the years, our accreditation as a real Living Wage employer has been cited by numerous applicants during the recruitment of new team members. It has real significance for potential employees. 

This is especially important in the retail sector, which has historically undervalued (often female) staff. Careers and employment within the retail sector are often seen as stop gap, and retail businesses are sadly underrepresented in the list of real Living Wage employers. Paper Tiger is one of just twenty one accredited retailers in Edinburgh, and just seventy in the whole of Scotland. 

Retail is a dynamic and challenging environment, especially over the last couple of years of pandemic trading, and I am firmly of the opinion that having valued staff has helped us weather the storm of the covid. The resilience, vibrancy and determination of my team to succeed has helped ensure our future success. 

I am also keenly aware that customers pay attention to our status as a real Living Wage employer. It is part of our commitment to being a responsible company in the way we carry out our business, a good neighbour, an ethical partner for our suppliers and a trusted retailer for our customers.  

Is that enough? I don’t think so. Edinburgh is a wealthy and prosperous city, but poverty wages are paid in numerous sectors of the city economy. Over the course of this decade, the City Of Edinburgh council has committed to tackle these issues in its ‘End Poverty In Edinburgh Delivery Plan’. In the past few months I have been involved in the Edinburgh Living Wage City campaign, which is part of that plan.  

The intention is to double the number of accredited businesses in the city over the next few years through a process of engagement with different sectors, organisations and businesses. The value of a well-paid workforce filters through the whole of the city economy and, as the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all the boats – the tide is coming in! 

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