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British Independent Retailers Association (bira)
By bira
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Let us know how we can help you

Please tell me how we can improve bira, says new CEO Andrew Goodacre

Hello, I am very proud to lead bira and represent the independent retail businesses of the UK.

Firstly, I must thank my predecessor Alan Hawkins for helping me understand how bira operates since I started here on 3 September. It is not always possible to have such a handover and Alan’s insight has been invaluable.

The people at 225 Bristol Road have made me feel really welcome. It is encouraging to see the enthusiasm and commitment everyone has to making the association, and therefore our members, successful. It is obvious to me that bira offers much more than many other trade bodies and has unique strengths, such as bira bank and bira direct, two services highly valued by many members.

Such assets underline that bira (like any good retailer) has been innovative in the past and has been determined to offer great service. I believe we will need these qualities to succeed in the future, so we can attract even more members (and retain them once they have joined). In our challenging sector there are far too many independent retail businesses struggling to operate without the support of bira. I am determined to change that situation.

Even in my first month I have become acutely aware the biggest concern for our members (and retail concerns in general) is the unfair burden imposed on them by business rates. Of the collective business rates bill, retailers pay nearly 25%, which amounts to about £7bn annually. There is a consensus the current system is not fit for purpose and, as you will be aware, bira has been working for around two years on alternative solutions. We presented our pragmatic and practical proposal to MPs and peers at the Houses of Parliament on 11 September. Happily, it was very well received.

Keeping the momentum going, on 10 October I am meeting Paul Uppal MP, the Small Business Commissioner, who leads an independent office tasked with empowering small businesses. I am hoping to secure his support for our adjustments to the business rates system.

Naturally, I am very keen to immerse myself into the independent retail sector and I will look to spend time with members in their businesses so I can better understand what you need from bira. I already have ‘hit the road’ in my first month. In York I visited Barnitts, Browns and Pextons, three different long-established specialists with an effective strategy in common – to offer great products with great service.

Still in Yorkshire, I attended a “Health of the High Street” meeting organised in Harrogate by bira member William Woods of interior design specialist Woods of Harrogate (see p5).

It might take me quite some time, to put it mildly, to meet the many thousands of bira members. So why don’t we communicate the modern way? I would very much like to hear from you via andrew.goodacre@bira.co.uk and I would be thrilled if you followed my Twitter account @bira_CEO.

I am delighted to be working for you.

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