Small shops have reported that trade turned down in the second quarter of this year, according to the latest figures from bira (British Independent Retailers Association).
The overall year-on-year fall in the second quarter was -0.7%. Independent retailers of clothing and footwear had a second healthy quarter, while DIY and hardware enjoyed a year-on-year for the third consecutive quarter (albeit modest at just under 1%).
The best performers were garden machinery/tool hire shops, which increased sales by almost 11%, continuing a year-long streak of growth. Pet product indies also had a good quarter, with sales up almost 3%, but furniture, floorcoverings and beds retailers saw sales slump by over 4%.
The biggest losers, by some way, were cookshop and housewares retailers. Bira commented: “This sector, which has been the source of worrying news for some months, saw a reverse from a small gain in the first quarter to a double-digit fall in the second.”
The bad news was spread almost evenly across the eight geographical regions reported – the only one to buck the trend being Scotland.
Bira’s research also showed confidence amongst independent retailers fell between the first and second quarters. Only 8% are ‘very confident’ now compared with 12% in the first quarter, while 55% are ‘reasonably confident’ against 58% in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the number of ‘anxious’ retailers rose to 37% in the second quarter from 30% in the first.
Several bira members commented about fears of footfall. “Footfall on the high street of small towns has definitely diminished and I think will continue to do so whilst the likes of Amazon continue to have an unfair tax advantage,” said one gifts, china and glass retailer. Another gifts, china and glass retailer said: “We are closing the shop and going online only… due to footfall diminishing from department stores closing in the high street.”
Consumer confidence was also a concern. “I really don’t know where this ‘strong consumer led growth’ is which apparently we are experiencing,” said one cookshop and housewares retailer. “Our own figures, and anecdotal reports from many other retailers I speak to, both in and outside our sector, are dismal.”
The experience of another cookshop and housewares retailer supported this view. “Consumer confidence is very low. Even if they have got the money [the issue of] when and how much mortgages are going up is their main worry.”