You can be forgiven for feeling jaded by the current news. Not a day goes by when the media doesn’t delight in broadcasting the latest doom and gloom headline. Whether it be the return of the recession to the UK and knock on effect on the beleaguered high street, the high street banks failings or the continuing troubles in Europe, it’s hard for any independent retailer to stay positive.
But before you hide under the bedcovers or worse decide to give up, it’s worth remembering that very few succeed in business without some form of support, even those who scale the heights of FTSE 100 companies. Throughout their careers many business leaders turn to a mentor who will provide a wealth of expertise, advice and guidance and valuable networking contacts.
This is all very well for a FTSE 100 chief executive I hear you say, but what about me as an independent retailer?
Well, you might not have a personal mentor on your speed dial, but those independent retailers who have joined bira (British Independent Retailers Association), can testify that being part of a professional association runs a close second!
Now this blog entry is not meant to be a sales pitch for membership. It’s simply an opportunity to demonstrate that being an independent doesn’t mean that you are on your own and also to highlight some of the issues that our independents have faced and how bira has used its collective voice and strength to help them.
Working together for the benefit of ALL Independent Retailers
Which is exactly what has happened recently when in June, bira deputy chief executive Michael Weedon joined forces with Nick Madlani, finance director of menswear fashion brand Luke 1977, to represent fashion retailers’ concerns on credit insurance and bank overdraft issues to the powers-that-be in Whitehall.
The pair discussed credit insurance and bank overdraft issues with officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and then met the shadow minister for competitiveness & enterprise Iain Wright MP and Rochdale’s Labour representative Simon Danczuk, who is parliamentary private secretary for the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna. A wider agenda including business rates and the Portas Review was included in the discussions.
Commenting on the discussions, Michael Weedon said,“Both sides of the House and everyone in the bureaucracy that serves us need to understand that the issues affecting independents, which account for two out of every three shops in the country, have a key role in the success or failure of our towns. Banks and insurers seem not to care whether they live or die. We do, and we will continue to spread the word in the corridors of power.”
And this is just one example of how in tough tunes, it can pay dividends draw on the clout of a national organisation who can articulate the concerns of the independent and ensure that views and concerns are heard.
A recent survey by Bira showed that one in ten small businesses have been refused credit
Financial worries are also high up on the agenda for many independents. With high street banks reluctant to agree loans – a recent survey by bira showed that one in ten small businesses have been refused credit – and the same survey showing that two thirds of independent shops have had overdrafts cut or removed, it’s a harsh reality that many businesses feel like they have run out of places to turn for help.
bira member Janine Tozer from Not Just Pets found that her high street bank would not help her when she applied for financial help for a shop premises move. The high street bank took three weeks to come back with an option, and it was one that would have meant borrowing more money than she needed and to take a second charge on her house.
However, when she approached bira finance (bira’s very own association bank) she received a response within 48 hours and was even offered a lower lending rate than her high street bank.
Janine said, “I cannot praise the bira finance team enough, once the loans were approved and the forms were signed, bira finance were extremely efficient in processing the loan and releasing the monies.”
By being part of bira, Janine and many other members are able to tap into unique and bespoke services like bira finance that they would otherwise not know about.
There’s no need to struggle on alone – be part of a community whose aim is to support ALL independent retailers…
So hopefully this blog will have given you a little insight into bira and how we help independents. Education is key which is why we are supporting independent retailers month and why we held 1-2-1 meetings to explain the benefits of membership to independents at the launch conference that took place on 1 July. Of course if you didn’t manage to see us at the launch conference, or even if you just would like to know more about the benefits of membership, please call us on 0800 028 0245, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bira.co.uk , we’d love the opportunity to tell you the good news about being an independent and hopefully rid you of any impulse to hide under the bedcovers!
This blog was written by Alan Hawkins, CEO, bira
About Alan Hawkins
Alan Hawkins is the CEO of bira (British Independent Retailers Association) the leading trade association for independent retailers in the UK with the aim to provide first class support, business services and specialist representation to our members.
bira represents approximately 7,500 members across the UK from single retail outlets to small chains, dealers, suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.