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Bira Survey Reveals Challenging Q1 For Retailer

According to a new survey by the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), many independent retailers across the UK have faced a difficult start to 2024, with the Associations’ first Heartbeat survey asked members about their trading performance in the first quarter, (January to March), compared to the previous quarter (Q4 2023) and the same period in 2023.

The survey also gauged confidence levels for Q2 2024 and the full year, as well as the impact of the national minimum wage (NMW) increase in April.

Above: Bira’s ceo Andrew Goodacre.
Above: Bira’s ceo Andrew Goodacre.

Andrew Goodacre, ceo of Bira, commented: “These findings highlight the challenges facing many of our independent retail members as they navigate rising costs and economic pressures. The increase to the national minimum wage in April has been a further strain, with over a third saying it has negatively impacted their business.

“Additionally, nearly a quarter have been forced to reduce staff hours or head count as a result of the higher wage floor. However, we were encouraged that over a third of members still managed to grow their sales in Q1 2024 versus the previous year, but margins have been squeezed due to increased business costs and wage increases.”

The findings revealed that 46.5% of respondents said their Q1 2024 trading was somewhat or much worse than Q4 2023. However, over a third (35.6%) reported somewhat or much better performance versus the previous quarter.

Year-on-year, the picture was more mixed, with 35% saying Q1 2024 was somewhat or much better than Q1 2023, but 46% reporting somewhat or much worse results compared to the same period last year.

Looking ahead, confidence for Q2 2024 is relatively low, with 42.6% feeling somewhat or highly unconfident about April to June. Just 27.8% are somewhat or highly confident, while 29.7% are neutral.

The survey data also indicated that almost a third (32.4%) of respondents had experienced higher paid staff asking for pay rises following the NMW increase, while 19.6% do not employ anyone on the minimum wage.

With a General Election on 4 July, Andrew Goodacre has called for all parties to have the high street focus in mind when looking at their plans for change in 2024.

Top: Independent retailers have confirmed a challenging year so far.

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