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.