John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses @FSB_HQ view on #IndieRetail

The Federation of Small Businesses is pleased to be partnered with Independent Retailer Month to highlight the vital role independent and local shops play in our communities around the country.

It is a fact that the high street as we knew it 20 years ago has changed. If you walk down many high streets you can see more and more space is devoted to chain stores or simply lies empty.

Keep Trade Local campaign

The credit crunch has played its part leaving gaping holes in many once thriving towns. And because of this and the growth of out-of-town retail centres it means fewer people are visiting local high streets for their day-to-day shopping.

Retail firms make up about 15 per cent of FSB membership and so knowing the importance of the sector, we have for the past four years run a ‘Keep Trade Local’ campaign designed to highlight the importance of local shops to their communities.

There are many threats to the high street aside from the issues above. Most of these problems should be dealt with at a local level as different communities will have different solutions.

Parking is one issue which members talk to me about when I meet them. It’s too expensive so people go to the big supermarket or to out-of-town shopping centres where there is free parking. Town centres are also crippled by yellow lines. People can’t just stop outside the shop to run in for milk or bread anymore. Often these yellow lines have little to do with improving traffic and more to do with local authorities looking at other ways to raise revenue.

The ongoing problems of the credit crunch means household incomes are still squeezed, allowing little room for discretionary spending. In the three months to May, we know that 44 per cent of retail members responding to our ‘Voice of Small Business’ Index reported declining sales, while the confidence of businesses in this sector fell from -12 in Q1 to -20 in Q2.

Light at the end of the tunnel – 59% of retail firms aim to grow in the next 12 months

But there is hope on the horizon. We know from our recent member survey that 59 per cent of retail firms want to grow in the next 12 months – which is great news, especially as it is the UK’s army of small firms that will ultimately pull the economy out of recession. We must ensure this desire for growth becomes a reality.

Celebrate your independent retailers throughout July and bring the community to life

So, during Independent Retailer Month, we want to see more businesses taking part in activities and for people to use the butcher, gift shop and travel agent on their local high street and really boost the shops in the local community in which they live.

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About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
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