The amalgamation of red tape holding back retailers is making life tough on the high street, according the British Retail Consortium’s director general.
In an interview with BBC News this week, Stephen Robertson spoke of the tough trading conditions for retailers following the publication of the BRC and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for October.
UK retail sales values for the month saw a 1.1% rise, compared to a 1.5% growth in October last year, but like-for-like sales were down by 0.1% during the same period. This is the weakest sales growth for 11 months and one of the worst performing months for 2012.
Robertson said: “There are differences across the sector and obviously the value sector continues to perform well and the premium sector seems to have largely weathered the recession better than most. But the fact is most retailers are somewhere in the middle and I think what we are seeing across the piece is that most retailers have increased their efficiency, paid a lot of attention to making sure customer service is at the heart of their business.
“But I’m afraid however much you work on those issues, the economic facts of consumers not having much to spend, fiercely rising costs and on top of that, red tape continues to pile up, meaning that life is very tough on the high street.”
When asked whether the modest sales revival in September was something of a false hope, he responded: “Those September numbers did give us a bit of encouragement, which has been rather dashed by these miserable October numbers. It’s pretty much on all fronts; food and non-food had a very dull time in October, and even the bright lights of online dimmed a little, because we saw the rate of growth drop sharply back to +8%.”
He added that in the approach to Christmas, November and December will be absolutely critical to retailers to producing the profit businesses need to continue.
“It is critical that we see for many retailers, who sometimes produce 50% of their profit from these last three trading months, if they are going to continue into next year, they need to make sure they deliver here. And of course at this time we have seen a hefty increase in business rates that are affecting retailers disproportionately, so that is hurting them as well at this very sensitive time.”
USE YOUR LOAF! SHOP ON THE HIGH STREET
British Baker launched a new awareness campaign this month to help bakers promote the benefits of high street shopping.
‘Use Your Loaf! Shop on the High Street’ will aim to tackle problems bakery retailers are faced with on a daily basis, such as parking charges, increasing rents and antisocial behaviour. It will also look at ways to bring back shoppers to the UK’s high street, as increasing numbers of people turn to the internet, out-of-town superstores and the multiples.
BB’s campaign will run in association with the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) and is looking for further champions from the industry, businesses or individuals, from up and down the country to step forward and promote the values of the campaign to fellow high street bakers and retailers.
Christopher Freeman, NAMB president and owner of Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End, London, said: “Having worked in the high street for more than 40 years, I still believe we have a place, despite stiff competition. We offer diversiy from the monoculture of any street, any town, any county.”
To keep up-to-date with the Use Your Loaf! Shop on the High Street campaign, tell us your views on your local high street, or to find out more information on any trading problems you are having: