Posted: 06/07/2022

Indies not impressed with proposal to revive imperial measurements

Proposals to bring back imperial measurements in shops have sparked dismay from independent food retailers.

Ministers launched a consultation during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend asking for views on a return to trading using the traditional units.

Under law brought in to comply with EU legislation, imperial markings must currently be no larger or more prominent in the UK than metric alternatives, other than in limited specialised fields.

But the Government said Brexit had “created an opportunity to take back control of our measurement system”. 

Questions in the consultation document, which is open to response until 26th August, include asking consumers: “Do you foresee any costs or benefits to you from businesses being permitted to sell solely in imperial units?”

Jennie Allen, owner of west London deli chain Bayley & Sage, described the proposals as “crazy”.

“No-one understands what pounds and ounces are,” she said. “My staff definitely don’t remember imperial measurements – lots of them are non-English. Why would we go back?” 

As well as staff training there would be a raft of logistical headaches for retailers, Allen added. 

“It would mean a new till, reprogramming everything, creating new price tickets. We are so vary-weight, with fresh fruit and veg, cheeses, marinades – it would be a nightmare.” 

She added: “We are all struggling for staff. We have enough on our plate without additional work for no gain to anybody. No one has ever asked us to bring back pounds and ounces.”

Jen Grimstone-Jones, co-owner of Berkshire-based Cheese Etc, said the imperial system was not as intuitive as metric.

“We have a young lad who works on a Saturday and if someone asked him for half a pound of something he would assume they meant 50-pence worth,” she said. 

“Our till software is all geared up for grams and kilograms – we would have to invest in new technology to be able to deal with an outdated measuring system.”

The British Independent Retailers Association said the consultation was “a waste of taxpayers’ money” that could cause “unnecessary ramifications for businesses”. 
 Chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “Trying to bring back a focus on imperial measurements is a pointless and unproductive initiative. The time and money spent on this non-starter would be better used on supporting indie retailers facing recessionary pressures and real business concerns.

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