Confidence among independent retailers is rising sharply as overall trading continues to improve, according to the latest quarterly sales monitor of British Independent Retailers Association (bira) members.
The findings, for the first three months of 2014, reveal that seven out of ten independent retailers are confident in the trading year ahead of them – the highest level since the recession.
Some 56% of bira members taking part in the monitor reported higher sales for the first three months of 2014 compared with the year-ago period, while 44% of respondents counted less in the till. “This balance is the reality behind the overall net gain in growth,” explained bira deputy ceo and communications director Michael Weedon. “That overall gain in takings was just above the 1.6% inflation waterline marked by the Consumer Prices Index for March. The balance of ‘Ups’ versus ‘Downs’ remains very fine and it’s clear that if there is an overall recovery, it is not by any means comprehensive.”
As a result, the bira ‘confidence index’ moved up from 63% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 70% in the first quarter of 2014, which marks the highest point reached so far in optimism since 2009.
Independent department stores, cookshops, clothing and footwear, gift shops and bookshops and garden suppliers all reported growth, along with DIY and hardware, which logged the second highest sector rise at 3.5% year-on-year. Furniture, floorcoverings and beds, cards and stationery and pet products were the only sub-sectors seeing incomes fall. The various regions show no clear picture except the continuation of the year-long run of growth in the Midlands.
Michael Weedon commented: “While results are not spectacular, they are solid – and gains in turnover are established on an upward curve. Optimism is rising in anticipation of more to come.”