Bira members blame weather for sales slump

Bira’s latest sales survey reveals a year-on-year slump in trade across virtually all types of business and almost all regions.

The findings are based on the results of a Quarterly Sales Monitor conducted by bira (British Independent Retailers Association) for the quarter ending March 31. The survey was conducted earlier this month and sent to more than 7,000 members of the association.

Bira said “The story of trading for independent retailers in the first quarter of 2013 was in the comments left by members as much as in the

numbers collected in the survey: 39 of the 72 comments included the word ‘weather’.”

Comparing their business with the same quarter last year, 61% of respondents reported a lower performance, on average down 14%, while just 33% reported a higher performance, on average up 9%. Overall average performance was down 6%.

The north-west region worst fared worst at -15.76% followed by Northern Ireland at -8.92%, London and the south-east at -8.20% and Scotland at -6.68%.

The Midlands were alone in bucking the trend, returning to positive territory of +0.84% after three straight quarters of poor results.

In terms of types of business, only two product sectors – Cards, Stationery, Crafts & Hobbies and Department Store – recorded growth, of 4.37% and 6.05% respectively.

The worst results were returned by those sectors most exposed to the elements: Garden & Horticultural Machinery (-14.08%) and Clothing & Footwear (-9.38%).

Cookshop/Housewares reported an average performance of -3.08% while the figure for DIY/Hardware was -3.83%.

Bira members were clear where the blame lay for such a miserable start to 2013. When asked for general comments on the trading period, one cookshop and housewares member said that the weather depressed sales.

The experience of other retailers from the cookshop & housewared sector experience confirmed this. “January was poor, probably as a result of the weather, so we’re very pleased to have produced a positive result for the quarter as a whole,” one member said.

Another said trading “would have been worse if Easter was in April, but added: “The Sale culture has changed the high street for good. There is now the Sale, then a discount day/week/month, a mid-season Sale, extra Sale, Blue Cross Sale and so on.”

A third retailer pointed out: “If one were to strip out the weather-affected weeks, our figures would show a much better reading; perhaps up 15-20%. This, however, is only starting to make some headway on the year as a whole, which for us ends at the end of April and it will still show around -8% on last year. So let’s not get carried away!

“Will it still show any improvement in April or May? Early days of any recovery? I think we are still bouncing around at the bottom and any sustained pick-up may take some time yet. If there is a pick-up, I may be able to start feeding the kids again, or at least paying us – the owners of the business – again!”

On a more positive note, respondents were asked how confident they felt about the year ahead. While just 3.28% replied ‘very confident’, some 50.82% said they felt ‘reasonably confident’ – and bira’s ‘Anxiety Index’ dropped below 50% for the first time since the first quarter of 2012.

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