New research from the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) shows that independent shops logged a year-on-year quarterly decline of 1.9% in the period from April to June.
At the same time, this is the best result for this group for a year. While 52.8% of respondents flagged a drop in trade, this was an improvement on the 60.6% in the same position last quarter. The numbers reporting flat sales or an increase rose to 8.2% and 39% respectively.
In the 11 sub-sectors that are tracked by bira, there was a roughly 50:50 split between gainers and losers.
Garden supplies and machinery led the winners with a 12.2% increase year-on-year as the sun came out following a miserable first quarter. Furniture and floorcoverings suffered the worst fall at -6.64%.
Regionally, East Anglia gained most, while the North West fared least well.
In the ‘Optimism Index’, those feeling ‘very confident’ about the year ahead rose to 6%, while those only ‘reasonably confident’ fell to 45.45% and those describing themselves as ‘anxious’ rose to approach half at 48.95%.
The Association commented: “In trade, as with the weather, there are bright spots and thunderstorms. The overall trend has improved, but there is still less money in the till than at this time last year. Sales volumes are, at best, marking time.”
Bira added: “These figures show that the government needs to remain cautious about hailing a general recovery.
“Wage growth still lags behind overall inflation, the economy is still smaller than it was in 2008 and the fragile state of retail sales – even where there is growth – is only underpinned by historically bargain basement interest rates.”