Tesco may have posted record sales but the Christmas period wasn’t half as cheery for the independent retailers quizzed in our latest survey.
Ninety per cent said Christmas was poorer or the same as previous years, with only a handful feeling that the festive period had brought them any joy.
The future doesn’t look so bright either, as only 16% felt 2005 would be any better.
That leaves 84% feeling despondent about any success in the coming months with more than half feeling business would be the same at best, while nearly a quarter were convinced things could only get worse.
“The big stores are taking over everywhere,” said one Northern shop keeper, “and I’m even thinking of selling up.”
He was not the only independent retailer who was contemplating his future, with a Midlands-based grocer saying that the UK was going to be like the US in the next few years, with no small shops left.
“I have a Lidl and a Netto down the road from me, so how can I compete against them
when they are selling tins of baked beans for 5p?” asked another. “It doesn’t seem to get any better, I wish it would.”
Retailers who had a cracking Christmas put their success down to several things: their own hard work, constantly expanding the product range offered and good quality staff.
“Our staff are always happy and are trained to treat the customer as the most special person in the shop, and people like that personal service,” said a shop owner in the south west.
Despite the low levels of confidence, although the majority were not planning to spend any money on their businesses this year, 44% were.
Many had ambitious plans to expand the size of their shops, introduce whole new food ranges, and some were introducing booze for the first time.
“Investment is always a priority for us as it is the only way to compete against the multiples,” said a Nottingham-based retailer. “Last year we had a major refit and this year we will improve the frontage.”
Gail Hunt
Reader Panel: Independent Retailers