The British Independent Retailers Association (bira) monitor of sales for the first quarter reveals an almost 50/50 split between those whose turnover was above that for the same three month period in 2014 and those who rang up less in the till.
Independent retailers chalked up a third straight quarter in turnover growth overall in the first three months of 2015, although more suffered falling turnover than at any time since the end of 2013, and fewer increased takings than at any point since then. But those that gained, did better than those that lost out. The margins are fine: half (49.7%) were up while the other half (50.3%) were down.
The gainers were, on average 11.5% up, while the non-gainers were 8.5% down. The average was an overall gain of just 1.43% but, as bira pointed out, ‘it should be remembered that there are huge supermarket operators which would die for any positive result at all’.
The household-related sectors did well, with DIY and hardware clocking up a sixth quarter of good news (although at a more subdued 1.3%) and once again, outdone by garden and garden machinery stretching a growth spurt to a full two years and a turnover uplift to nearly 10%. Pet products returned to health after a poor period at the end of 2014 and Cookshop and Housewares switched from gloom to a bit of a smile, albeit with a rise of just 1.46%. Gifts and glassware matched furniture, floorcoverings and beds, in chalking up a third period of rising sales.
The location picture was far more mixed with a distinct turnaround for both Scotland and the north-east. Confidence remains relatively high, with ‘the anxiety level’ dropping to the lowest level in a year – one of the lowest since the survey began eight years ago, making more than two-thirds of respondents either ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’.
Bira noted that ‘it is interesting to see that in the past year there has been little increase in the numbers trading online. Although most do a relatively small amount of their business through that channel, there is a small group that gets almost all of its sales that way. So this is pushing the turnover proportion up as time goes on’.
On the other hand the balance of ups and downs indicates an overall turnover increase of 1.43% year-on-year – which is 1.43% better than CPI inflation, ‘so it looks as though the happy half of the independent high street has logged a little bit of real growth’.
Bira added: ‘This might tie up with the fact that of the 11 trading sectors tracked, only three were in negative territory. All of the home-centred sectors showed increases, joined for the first time in half a year by cookshop and housewares shops.’