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The new year brings new optimism for much better trading in 2020

GOODBYE AND GOOD riddance, 2019. Now, in 2020, let’s show how resourceful we independent retailers can be.

That, in a nutshell, sums up the reactions of Bira members to our request for predictions for trading in 2020. Whatever their personal political leaning, the definitive election result points to a welcome period of stability.

David Austin, of the Austins department store in Newton Abbott, Devon, said: “I felt relief after the election result. We are optimistic and have the appetite for the many challenges faced by the high street. Looking back, 2019 was a year of intense customer focus and concentration on bringing about much change to ensure we stay relevant to the needs and rising expectations of our customers. “We expect more of the same in 2020, continually improving the customer experience and retail presentation. We are optimistic about the independent sector, backed by the recognition and appreciation from many customers of our individual approach.”

At Robinson’s Pet Shop in Grainger Market, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, owner Nick Robinson is of similar mind: “In 2019 sales haven’t been easy. There is still business to be done, but we have had to work hard and think even harder to achieve it. The political uncertainty has been noticeable. “The new year will start off in much the same vein. As the year progresses, I am expecting more clarity about Europe. Strong independent businesses will be even stronger for 2019’s experiences.”

Echoing the views of many, John Deane-Bowers, owner of the Trotter & Deane menswear shops in Bury St Edmunds and Cam-bridge, said: “I will remember 2019 as the most challenging retail environment of my all-too-long career! “Domestic uncertainty was compounded by weak sterling and we are very dependent on our Euro-pean suppliers.
“As for 2020, we have plans afoot to launch a limited ecommerce offer while keeping a careful eye on stock levels in store.”

At award-winning cookshop Potters of Hockley in Essex, Tom Carter revealed: “I will remember 2019 as very challenging for many reasons, including Brexit, Boris, and more miserable customers than ever before. I’m glad it is over.  “I hope 2020 brings a settled country and a chance for reasonable growth. We move on!”

Richard Graham, co-owner of lifestyle store One 40, in Cranleigh, Surrey, commented: “I will remember 2019 as being very challenging. Fashion sales took a tumble because of weather, over-supply in the market-leading to early discounts, and a growing sentiment of making do with what’s in the wardrobe.
“But I feel quite bullish for 2020. We have massively adjusted our cost base. We have some certainty over Brexit. I get a real sense that customers are pro-independents and appreciate our authenticity.”

Holly Wilson, owner of the Prep and Richard Dare cookshops in north London, remarked: “In 2019 we tightened our belts and got through it. In 2020, we will be facing increased prices and increased admin, thanks to Brexit!”

Bira past-president Surinder Josan at All Seasons DIY in Smethwick said: “Independent retailers need the new government to take radical measures to level the playing field. We don’t just want to survive. We would like to thrive.”

In Bristol, Mike Abrahams, founder of the Wild Oats natural foods store, is also optimistic: “Independents have a unique offering of personal service, and despite “showrooming” many people will still come to us to browse, taste, feel, see and discuss their choices in preference to lifeless online listings.”

To sum it all up, William Coe of the Coes menswear group in East Anglia commented: “I am glad to see the back of the testing and tiring Teens. Now I am looking forward to the Roaring Twenties!”.

For another opinion, see also Liz Lawson’s Counterpoint column on p11.

Our business has been with Bira for around 10 years. In this time, we’ve saved on bank charges which provides great financial support. It’s good to know there’s someone on the other end of the phone that you can ask about running your business.

Lucy Matthews, Bookends (Member since 2008)
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