More small shops are floating than are sinking, although turnover fell overall year on year in the third quarter of 2013, according to fresh figures from the British Independent Retailers Association (bira). They say that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and official figures suggest that the tide might just have turned, but the evidence from independents has yet to show much of a rise in their takings.
The broad trend is towards a subdued improvement in trade, held back by price deflation in the non-food half of UK retail. Garden machinery (the standout success again), Pet Products and independent department stores were all above the waterline for another quarter. Clothing and Footwear and the big ticket items of Furniture and Floorcoverings were less deeply submerged, while DIY and Housewares were more neutrally buoyant. Giftware, Cards and Books/Toys/Music etc were, however, headed downwards.
Nevertheless, being optimists, more and more independents are looking to the horizon: the bira Optimism Index, sometimes known as the Anxiety Index, regained its happier title as those reasonably optimistic about the year ahead bobbed up above the 50% line again. So some are waving, some drowning. If there is a real retail recovery then many more independents will have to catch the wave in the critically important fourth quarter than have done to date.
To help them in that, bira has joined a coalition of champions of the High Street supporting myhigh.st in the target200 campaign, which aims to help the independent retailers of 200 towns open up shop online.