Independents post highest gain since 2007

Britain’s independent retailers have proven their resilience, despite the onset of a new recession, by showing growth for the second quarter in a row.

The year-on-year, like-for-like figure of +2.3 percent percent beat the Q4 2011 increase of +1.57 percent and, furthermore, was the highest quarterly gain since the survey began in 2007.

Publishing the results of the latest quarterly sales monitor, Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of independent retail association bira, said: "The independent sector never ceases to amaze. While the number of shops in towns run by multiples fell last year, the number of independents grew – and by more than the drop in multiples.

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“Now, as the ONS announces that recession has returned, with two quarters of decline, independents produce the second of two quarters of positive growth. This is important: if the government really wants to nurture our towns and for retail to produce jobs and growth then the answer is right here, with the independents."

He added: "It is really good to see that the optimism/pessimism index has also ticked up, with over 56 percent of retailers now optimistic about the year ahead, of which approaching 5 percent describe themselves unequivocally ‘very confident’ about the prospects for trade."

Despite these positive indications, however, not all the experts were quite as optimistic about the future of the UK’s independent retail sector.

Following its quarterly meeting in April 2012, the KPMG/Ipsos Retail Think Tank (RTT) is reporting a bleaker outlook for retailers.

The RTT Retail Health Index is expected to fall to an all time low of 77 by the end of quarter two of 2012. This compares with 79 at the end of the first quarter and is five points lower than the level recorded during the depths of the original banking crisis and recession, in quarters two and three of 2009.

The RTT noted that the ‘losers and closers’ are the independents who simply cannot compete and are going out of business. The trend is reportedly particularly acute among operators whose services are increasingly available electronically, such as those offered by financial services operators, The Post Office, travel agencies, video stores etc. On the retail side, music, video and books have been hit.

The think tank argued that although high profile events such as The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and 2012 Games will inject a ‘feel good’ factor for some, underlying economic trends will have an increasingly detrimental impact on consumer confidence and spending.

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