Independent retailers produced their best quarter of growth since 2007, according to BIRA’s sales monitor for the first three months of this year.
Unfortunately, cookshops and housewares retailers stood out for a poor performance, with sales 1.84% down year on year – although the sector did enjoy a 5.9% rise in sales in the last quarter of 2011.
More than half of the independents taking part in the survey saw improved turnover in the quarter. Big-ticket items furniture, floorcoverings and beds reported an outstanding quarter, and cards, stationery, crafts and hobbies reversed a poor run, as did giftware, glass, china, jewellery and luggage. DIY and hardware produced a second strong quarter and pet products returned to small growth.
Michael Weedon, BIRA’s deputy chief executive, 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. Now, as the ONS announces that recession has returned, with two quarters of negative growth, independents produce 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’s really good to see that the optimism/pessimism index has also ticked up, with over 56% of retailers now optimistic about the year ahead.”
Regionally, the biggest gains were in East Anglia, Northern Ireland and the Midlands. Scotland and the north east continued a poor run of negative results.