Boost for independent retailers as chain stores retract
Independent retailers have reported a pleasing sales boost at the
expense of dwindling numbers of national retail outlets on the UK’s high
In the last quarter of 2011, more than half of small shopkeepers
surveyed by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira)
reported higher sales than the same period the year previously, the
biggest proportion since the survey began in 2007.
Overall, 56 per cent of the nations shopkeepers reported a higher performance compared with the same quarter last year and the overall average performance of non-food retailers was up by 1.57 per cent, with some sectors fairing better than others.
The positive results suggest that independents are winning back shoppers, as existing retail chains like Comet, HMV and Laura Ashley downsize their presence. Clintons is also expected to reduce its store portfolio in the coming months.
Michael Weedon, Bira's deputy chief executive said: “Combine the small trading increase with the credit reduction and rising costs and you have a classic squeeze. Nevertheless independents remain optimistic and some have been rewarded with a modest upturn in their fortunes.”
Bira's research showed that independent cookshops were doing well on the high street, reporting an average 5.9 per cent sales increase. However, independent retailers selling greeting cards, stationery, hobbies and crafts were down 6.0 per cent in the period. The most pressured areas of trade continue to be books, toys, music and home technology and greeting cards.
“Retailers facing internet competition are faring the worst, especially if what they’re selling can be downloaded, or can fit through a letter box,” said Michael Weedon, Bira's deputy chief executive.
On a regional basis, retailers in Scotland fared the worst, with a 8.3 per cent average decline in sales, compared to a 4.3 per cent increase recorded from respondents in London and the South East. Shops in the Midlands did the best, reporting a 7.9 per cent increase in performance.
In contrast the Local Data Company (LDC), last week revealed that one in every seven shops on the UK's high streets stood empty at the end of last year, although vacancy rate have remained broadly stable with the previous year. Regional differences show that Stockport had the highest vacancy rate of large town centres with over 30 per cent, while St Albans had the lowest with 8.2 per cent. The LDC suggests that independents shops are thought to perform better in areas with more affluent shoppers.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) described vacancy rates as "worryingly high" in many parts of the country and called on the government to reduce business rates, which are set to rise by 5.6% in April.
The BIRA retailer confidence index swung back towards happiness for the first time since June 2010, despite the fact that half have reported a reduction in the size of their overdraft facility by the banks in the past year and over half have suffered input price inflation for the goods they sell of over 5 per cent during the past quarter, while 25 per cent report that it has been over 10 per cent.