Meet your new National President

Howard Pullen of Howard Pullen Machinery in Loxwood, West Sussex succeeded Surinder Josan of All Seasons DIY, in Smethwick, West Midlands, as Bira National President at the Bira AGM on the 20th June.

Howard is the first member of the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA), which is a part of the Bira family, to head up Bira. Having spent 40 years in the farm machinery sector, he runs Howard Pullen Machinery Ltd which sells used agricultural and construction machinery mainly to export markets in Europe.

Howard said: “The volatility of the exchange rate is affecting businesses but a weak pound is beneficial to my business. I know this is probably not good for most Bira members who have had to put up their prices on imported goods. It’s not an easy time for retailers and I am looking forward to learning how Bira members are dealing with the situation.

“I’m extremely excited to get out and about meeting members and representing independent retailers and dealers where I can. This is a crucial time in retail and I intend to use my expertise and experience to support our association to the best of my ability.

He added: “It is a challenging and exciting time for Bira and its members. Making Bira Digital is clearly going to help members access our services easier and attract new members. An improved online presence and the use of social media for promotions does help increase footfall for members who can actively engage with their customers. It’s not for the faint hearted though and it is time consuming, but those who are using it are clearly reaping the rewards.”

Speaking of his time as National President Surinder Josan said: “It’s been a pleasure and an honour to hold the position of National President since June last year. The proudest day in my life was on the 11th  September last year when I delivered the keynote speech about business rates in the Houses of Parliament to launch Bira’s Manifesto.”

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira said: “I’m extremely grateful to the work that Surinder put in during his time as President. He really did embody the role, visiting members the length and breadth of the UK in order to talk to them about membership and report back to Bira. He has also been working hard to represent hardware members with the Home Office as discussions continue about hazardous substances.

“I have great respect for Howard and look forward to his Presidency and what he plans to do to support both our BAGMA and Bira members over the course of the next year.”

If you’d like to invite Howard to come and visit you, please contact Sue Howe –

Ten New Bira Direct suppliers and brands launch at Exclusively Housewares.

exclusively housewares new suppliers bira direct

This year at Exclusively Housewares (11-12th June, Business Design Centre London), ten new Bira Direct suppliers and brands are exhibiting; Captivate Brands, Eurosonic Group Limited, Fackelmann Brands, Fiskars, Daewoo, Hairy Bikers, ProchefMary Berry, Royal Doulton and Whitefurze. This is a great opportunity for members to take advantage of the “Exclusively Gift” voucher scheme and to open new accounts with Bira Direct.

Carnaby exclusively housewares bira direct exclusively housewares bira direct whitefurze bira direct exclusively housewares

Exclusive offers and new product launches from Bira Direct suppliers.

To add extra value, members are also eligible for exclusive offers and a first look at new product ranges from Bira Direct suppliers.

On stand EH341 Black + Blum are offering members an unmissable opportunity to spend their vouchers. In addition to the £100 “Exclusively Voucher”, you’ll receive a further £50 off for an order of £300+ or an additional £100 off for an order of £500+. This means if you placed an order with Black + Blum at the show, you’d only pay £150!

Dexam, on stand EH438, have a wide range of offerings at the show. This includes an exclusive offer for members who decide to spend their voucher at the stand. The Eco Pack and the Summer Garden Pack are complete collections of winning products discounted for Bira members. The stock up for less extended credit offer has been supercharged for the show. This consists of discounts of 10% off orders over £300 and 15% off orders over £500. And, what’s more all invoices will be due for payment on the 30th August.

On stand EH408 Amefa have a wide range of offers available. This includes 20% off selected cutlery and knife sets including the Laser and Advantage knife stands which has an integrated cookbook/tablet holder.

New Bira Direct supplier Whitefurze on stand EH305 offers Bira members an additional 20% off the space master range.

Connect Distribution will be exhibiting for the first time at Exclusively Electrical on stand EE50 and are excited to announce the are now officially Samsung’s appointed microwave distributor.

For the latest Bira Direct show offers visit the Bira stand EH457.

The “Exclusively Gift”

eh-voucher exclusively housewares bira direct

The “Exclusively Gift” enables members to exchange a voucher for £100 off any one order placed at the show with a minimum value of £300 (nett of vat) with any participating exhibitor. This is a great chance to open an account with a new supplier and still gain the same benefits of ordering through Bira Direct.

For members who haven’t received a voucher, please visit Bira on stand EH457 to collect one1. And remember, vouchers must be validated at the stand before they can be spent.

Click here to register for your show ticket. We hope to see you there. Have a great show!

1Standard Bira Direct T&C’s apply. Limited to one voucher per member.



BRC figures show retail sales slump but what does this mean for the independents?

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium today show a 2.7% slump in retail sales, the biggest dip in 24 years.

In response, Andrew Goodacre CEO of the British Independent Retail Association, Bira said: “The disappointing figures reported by the BRC are reflective of the challenging times retail faces as a whole. We saw encouraging figures for April, helped by Easter, but these figures show the brittle nature of consumer confidence and any uncertainty (such as Brexit) will result in less spending.

“Interestingly, whilst we can’t directly compare these figures, our own survey of independent retail businesses saw a slightly better first quarter for small businesses, with 51.75% of respondents reporting a higher performance for Q1, which is up on Q4 2018 (46.43%) and is a clear improvement on Q1 2018 (42.56%). We hope this positive start to the year for independent retail businesses will continue but as we know, nothing is certain in retail.

“The smaller independent retail businesses have been helped with a 30% reduction in business rates and we now need the Government to start spending the £675 million high street fund to help bring confidence back to our high streets. As always, Bira will continue to fight the corner for independent businesses across the UK and we are now looking to secure a permanent solution for business rates from 2021.”

Bira runs the Quarterly Sales Monitor four times a year, it is the only survey of its kind that reflects the independent retail industry in the UK. The report features full analysis from the survey as well as all member comments. All reports are then used to influence the media and Government through our Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee (LPAC).

2018 sees growth in independent stores across shopping centres as landlords look for diversity and unique occupiers to replace closing chains

Data released today (28th May) by the Local Data Company and the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) shows that 2018 saw growth in the number of independent stores in shopping centres, with 1,951 new openings leading to a net gain of +87 (+1.1%) compared to a net decline of -88 in 2017 (-1.1%).

Independent retailers played key role in replacing the net loss of -811 chains in shopping centres – due to retailers rationalising estates. Shopping centre owners are becoming increasingly creative with vacant space, splitting it into smaller units which are more suitable for independent occupiers.

The analysis, which reviews changes across more than 313,000 independent businesses across Great Britain also found that overall, independent retailers opened 4.5% more shops in 2018 than in 2017. This number was offset by a record number of stores closing (35,524), which led to an overall net decline of -1,013 shops. However, this is a 32% improvement from the decline of -1,483 shops in 2017. Losses were offset by Leisure categories (cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs) and Service retail categories (hairdressers, barbers and dry cleaners) which were the only categories to see growth in 2018, with a net increase of +710 and +992 units respectively.

A key area of growth in the independent sector was Barbers, seeing an increase of +803 units. This represents a +7.3% net increase in numbers in the 12-month period. Barbers have been growing for five years straight and 2018 saw growth accelerating 30% from the +619 net increase in 2017.

Other key findings

• In 2018, independents accounted for 64% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain.
• A total of 70,035 independents either opened (34,511) or closed (35,524) up +4% up on 2017 where 67,503 opened (33,010) or closed (34,493).
• Numbers of independent Leisure units (restaurants, cafes & entertainment) increased by +0.75% in 2018. In 2018 there was a net increase of +710 units (11,080 openings and 10,370 closures), versus a net change of +132 in 2017.
• The independent Comparison Goods retail category (non-perishable goods such as clothes, books and homewares) saw a net change in units of -2.45% in 2018 (-2.62% in 2017). This is a net decrease of -2,125 units; a marginal improvement on 2017 (-2,240).
• The independent Convenience retail category (grocery and convenience stores) experienced a net decline of -590 units in 2018 versus a net decline of -266 units in 2017. This was the only sector to not see an improvement with competition from chain operators becoming more evident.
• Service retail (hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours and dry cleaners) was another category to see growth 2018 of +992 units (+1.0% versus +0.9% in 2017). This was predominantly driven by barbers.
• Key growth categories have been Barbers, Beauty salons, Restaurant & Bar concepts and Coffee shops. (see table 1 for figures)
• Categories in decline include Estate agents, Newsagents, Women’s clothing shops, and Fashion shops. (see table 2 for figures)
• Independent Vegan (+52%) and Jamaican restaurants (+15%) have increased the most as a percentage of their total estate.
• The North West showed the greatest increase of independents at +395 units (+1.0%) in 2018, versus +1 unit (+0.0%) in 2017.
• Yorkshire & the Humber and Greater London showed the greatest decline of independents at -429 units (-1.4%) and -377 units (-0.5%) respectively
• Portobello Road in London has the accolade of having the highest percentage of independent businesses at 95% (based on locations with 50+ total units).
• Telford is the town with the lowest percentage of independents at only 19%, against a GB average of 64% (based on locations with 50+ units).
• High streets saw no change in fortunes when compared to the previous year, with a decline in independent retailers of -0.3% in both 2017 and 2018 . Retail parks continued to see growth with a +4.6% increase (versus +7.3% in 2017), however this location type only accounts for 0.2% of all independents across GB.


Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira, said:

“Seeing growth in certain areas is encouraging to see. We’ve certainly noticed the increase in service-based retail. Even traditional retailers are seeing the benefits of diversifying and offering a service in their store that consumers can’t get online – whether this be key cutting, coffee, treatments or even workshops and demonstrations.

“However, the overall net decline of -1,013 shops shows independents are struggling. Business rates continue to be a huge burden on independent retail businesses. On top of this parking in town centres is reduced and often very expensive, there is poor infrastructure and there has been a lack of local authority vision and investment. We will continue to fight to level the playing field for retail as a whole and allow bricks and mortar retailers the chance to compete with online.”


Lucy Stainton, Head of Retail and Strategic Partnerships, the Local Data Company commented:

“2018 saw many well-known brands exit the high street and rationalise estates of bricks and mortar stores. A byproduct of this activity was a plethora of units in prime locations coming into the market, which agile entrepreneurs have been quick to reoccupy. This, combined with more a creative approach to property by shopping centre managers has resulted in a new breed of independent shopping centre occupiers. Increasing independent businesses in these assets has benefits for the owner, bringing diversity and differentiation into the retail offer. For independent business owners, the benefits include increased footfall and access to marketing via promotional websites and campaigns.

“In the coming months and years, we expect a similar pattern for retail parks. Whilst historically they have hosted big-box brands with large stores, recent challenges for retailers in this market will force retail park owners to review the structure of their assets, breaking up larger units up to attract a new type of retailer and make units for viable for independent retailers.”


Stock Up For Less and enjoy Extended Credit with Dexam

stockupforless dexam background

Bira members can enjoy extended credit from Dexam when they order through Bira Direct.  Available on all orders placed until Friday 28th June.


All ASAP orders over £300 come with 7.5% discount*

All ASAP orders over £500 come with 10% discount*

All ASAP orders over £1000 come with 15% discount*

*Availalbe on all products except Chasseur


What’s more all invoices will be due for payment by 30th August whether delivered in May or June!


Hurry and place as many orders as you like!


Contact our Sales Team at or call 01730 811 811.

view the promotion

MPs take their enquiry into business rates to Birmingham to hear from independent retailers

The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan, MP (Chair of the Treasury Committee) alongside MPs Steve Baker, Alison McGovern and Clive Betts (Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee) brought the Treasury Committee’s enquiry into business rates to Birmingham today, to speak to a number of independent retailers at the British Independent Retailers Association’s (Bira) Head Office.

Speaking to several independent retailers, including Surinder Josan, from All Seasons DIY in Smethwick, West Midlands, Liz Lawson from Lawsons in Devon, Duncan Mackay from Mackays of Cambridge, Martin Foster from Lakeland Leather in Cumbria, Cheryl Thallon from Sheaf Street Health Store in Daventry and Jacqui Bennett from Cooks of Trentham in Stoke on Trent, the Committee heard how business rates are crippling retailers and heard suggestions for a new system.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira said: “It was incredibly important for the committee to come out of London to hear from retailers from the rest of the country and to gain an understanding of what is happening at the coal face. The MPs really listened to their views and agreed that significant change is needed. We were pleased to hear that Bira’s proposal for a business rates allowance was heard, as well as more fundamental calls for reform.”

Surinder Josan, owner of local business All Seasons DIY, said: “Having MPs come to Birmingham to listen to us was a pivotal moment. Business rates are crippling many independent retailers and we need to do all we can to stem the losses and make our high streets thriving places again. I myself have had to put my plans for expansion on hold due to my rates. Nicky Morgan really listened and made lots of notes, so I’m hopeful that she took something away from today and took on board our ideas for reform. The battle isn’t over yet though and we’ll continue to fight.”

Members of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Association of Convenience Stores were also in attendance to take part in the round table discussions.

Ofgem announces strategic review of microbusiness energy market

Ofgem announces strategic review of microbusiness energy market
  • Ofgem is concerned some microbusinesses are struggling to engage with the market and paying more for their energy than they should.
  • Our evaluation of the impact of the CMA’s price transparency remedy suggests that wider issues remain in the £3.5 billion microbusiness energy market.
  • Ofgem presents its initial analysis on consumer harm and seeks further views and evidence on the challenges microbusinesses face.

Ofgem has announced its strategic review of the microbusiness energy market to better understand and address the issues faced by microbusinesses.

Our initial analysis shows that market information is often inaccessible, resulting in customers paying high prices and struggling to make informed decisions.

Microbusinesses play a central role in the UK economy. According to government data, there were over five million microbusinesses in the UK in 2018, accounting for a third of employment and 21% of turnover. Last year microbusinesses paid £3.5 billion in total in electricity and gas bills.

Ofgem has concerns that the energy market isn’t working as well as it should for these customers.

The complexity of the market with the wide variety of contracts and lack of accessible helpful information about prices means many microbusinesses find it hard and costly to engage in the market to find a better deal.

Ofgem has found that microbusinesses who do not engage in the market still pay a higher “loyalty penalty” than disengaged domestic consumers.

Following its investigation into the energy market, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered suppliers in 2016 to provide clear prices to microbusiness customers through a quotation tool on their websites or through price comparison websites to help them engage in the market.

Ofgem implemented the remedy in 2017 and today has published an evaluation of its effectiveness. The regulator has found while the remedy has improved the level of price information that is available to microbusinesses, it has had a limited impact on microbusiness engagement levels and has failed to address some of the fundamental problems in the market.

We will gather further evidence through the call for inputs and other evidence gathering activities before publishing our action plan in winter 2019.

Ofgem has already introduced a number of reforms to help microbusinesses get a better deal. This includes stopping suppliers from automatically rolling over microbusiness customers onto expensive deals, banning suppliers from backbilling microbusiness customers for energy used more than 12 months previously and introducing an overarching principle to treat microbusiness consumers fairly.

The review and any subsequent actions will complement other reforms being taken forward by Ofgem and government focused on micro and small businesses including smart meters, and the half hourly settlement and switching programmes.

Anthony Pygram, director of conduct and enforcement at Ofgem, said: “Microbusinesses are the backbone of the country’s economy. Yet too many are still finding it hard to navigate what is a complex and at times opaque market to get a better energy deal and are suffering significant consumer detriment as a result.

“Our review announced today, combined with our continued work with the government and industry, aims to deliver a properly functioning competitive retail energy market which works for all microbusinesses.”

Offensive Weapons Act receives Royal Assent

New legislation paves the way for Knife Crime Prevention Orders


The Offensive Weapons Act has today (Thursday 16 May) received Royal Assent, bringing in tough new measures that strengthen law enforcement’s response to violent crime.

The Act will make it illegal to possess dangerous weapons in private, including knuckledusters, zombie knives and death star knives, and will make it a criminal offence to dispatch bladed products sold online without verifying the buyer is over 18.

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is also providing additional support to the police through Knife Crime Prevention Orders. These orders will act as a deterrent to those vulnerable to becoming involved in knife crime. They will also enable the courts to place restrictions on individuals to help the police manage those at risk in the community.

Guidance on the process for Knife Crime Prevention Orders will be published, including operational guidance to police forces, ahead of a pilot in London.

Sajid Javid, Home Secretary said:

“As Home Secretary, I’m doing everything in my power to tackle the scourge of serious violence. Our new Offensive Weapons Act is a central part of this.

“These new laws will give police extra powers to seize dangerous weapons and ensure knives are less likely to make their way onto the streets in the first place. The Act will also see the introduction of Knife Crime Prevention Orders – a power the police called for.

“As well as tough law enforcement, it’s hugely important we continue our work to steer young people away from a life of crime in the first place.”

The Act includes a number of other measures to tackle serious violence, including:

  • A ban on the possession, manufacture and sale of rapid firing rifles and bump stocks, which increase a rifle’s rate of fire. The ban on the manufacture and sale of these weapons has now come into force with immediate effect
  • A ban on selling bladed products to a residential address without age verification
  • Updating the definition of flick knives to reflect changing weapon designs and banning private possession of flick knives and gravity knives
  • Changing the legal definition for threatening someone with an offensive weapon to make prosecutions easier
  • Banning the sale of corrosive products to under 18s
  • Making it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place

The Government will also consult on guidance for some of the new measures in the Act and engage with businesses and industry on how the legislation will affect them before it comes into force.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira said:

“We fully support responsible retailing of knives. These new regulations require two things- one is enforcement, especially where there is a perceived high risk. Secondly, the education of retailers and consumers is vital, not only in terms of knowing their obligations but also on the best way to enforce them.

“Bira has been and will continue to work with the Home Office to improve communications to retailers, to ensure they are fully aware of their responsibilities.

“We also believe that manufacturers play an important role in providing suitable packaging and labelling, that clearly shows the restrictions on the purchase of knives and other bladed items.”

The Offensive Weapons Act and strong law enforcement form part of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, which combines tough action with the vital need to steer young people away from crime in the first place.

Recently the Government launched a  £200 million 10-year Youth Endowment Fund to create a generational shift in violent crime. There is also an ongoing consultation on a new ‘public health duty’ which is intended to help spot the warning signs that a young person could be in danger.

Time to engage with innovation says CEO, Andrew Goodacre

British Independent Retailers Association (bira)

On his travels CEO Andrew Goodacre has been inspired by new ideas

OVER THE PAST couple of months I have been trying to visit as many members as possible, often at branch meetings, to better understand the challenges and opportunities faced by our independent retailer community.

Common themes have emerged: diversity, plus innovation to engage with the shopping public. The world of retail has always been fast-paced and technology has added completely new dimensions, changing the way we shop and our retail experiences. It is difficult to imagine a successful independent retail business today not being creative with either its marketing or its product range.

On pages 14-17 of the Bira Member Magazine we profile Potters of Hockley.

This business was founded in 1909 and is still going strong, but it is a very different business today from its ironmongery roots. It has successfully diversified by adding cookwares and has established a great reputation for quality products and service in this sector. The hard work of the management and staff are evident its success and recently Potters represented the UK among the world’s best cookshops at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.

Coffee roaster Stewarts of Trent Bridge represents a different kind of diversification.

Established in the 1980s, roasting and selling coffee beans to trade and public, under new owners it is now selling coffee machines and barista training to people serious about coffee. The business has grown to such an extent it is now a supplier for Bira Direct. This is great news for Bira as we need to reach out to the increasing number of coffee shops on the high streets. Service retailing is still a buoyant area and one that we will focus on even more.

Fashion is one of the most challenging areas for independent retailers because of the huge rise of internet shopping in this area from selling. As we report on p28, in the Scottish Borders Sarah Thomson has taken a creative approach to engaging her target market by organising fashion shows and activities to attract local shoppers. By creating theatre and an uplifting shopping experience, the business has succeeded where many others have foundered. A focus on ensuring an enhanced experience in-store will be crucial for all bricks-and-mortar retailers in the future. Finally, as this is the last edition of Bira magazine before our AGM, I would like to thank Surinder Josan for being a great national president over the past 12 months. We have spent a lot of time together and I have been impressed by Surinder’s commitment to Bira and its members while managing his own business. We will have Howard Pullen as our new president in June and I am sure that he will continue in the same vein as Surinder.

View the latest online edition of the Bira member magazine

The Pension Regulator has gone from collecting £22,500 to £53,768,808 in 5 years

Pension Regulator Contributions

Bryan Stott, Corporate Consultant for workplace pensions comments on The Pension Regulator crackdown. 

Yes those figures are correct, if only it was my pension fund! I would not be penning this article but sipping my pina colada on my yacht moored in a secluded bay in the Caribbean.

The £22,500 was the total amount collected by the Pension Regulator in Escalating Penalty Notices fines in the year ending March 31st 2015, this figure had grown to £53,768,808 (subject to audit) in the year ending March 2019. These figures were released by the pension regulator under a freedom of information request.[1]

When Pension Automatic Enrolment started in 2012 it was the most radical and most complicated pension legislation ever introduced in the UK, and meant that every employee in the UK, had to set up a pension scheme and enrol eligible employees into the pension scheme. Part of the legislation reminded me of that dance the oke-cokee, as employees were put in, could opt out, be put back in then opt out, this dance would happen every 3 years.

The pension regulator very kindly put together a series of guidance notes for employers, these notes ran to over 300 pages, having been involved in setting up over 1,000 Automatic Enrolment schemes, I have yet to meet an employer who read the guidance notes, please contact me if you did (no prize, but it would be good to know I was not the only person to read these).

What has gone wrong? Nothing in the government`s view as figures released in May 2018 estimated 9.5 million had been auto-enrolled into a pension scheme[2] and it is estimated that 10 million will be the total auto-enrolled by the end of 2019[3], add to that the £124 million collected in fines as at March 2019 since Automatic Enrolment began[4], and I would agree that from a government point of view this has been a success.

When Automatic Enrolment was first introduced my dealings with the Pension Regulator led me to believe that the legislation would be policed on a low key basis, and the regulator would help employers to fix things if they got them wrong, but I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Pension Regulator, and was surprised that the opening statement implied that they were now going to take a heavy hand to any employer who was getting things wrong.

As part of my role at Wren Sterling I have conducted many Automatic Enrolment audits and have yet to find any employer 100% compliant. The main reasons being the person who installed the auto-enrolment scheme left and there was no hand over to the new administrator, communications were not compliant (and often not issued on time) and records were incomplete.

The pension regulator is visiting 100 companies a month, so with 1.5 million employers with Automatic Enrolment schemes, the chances of a visit from the Pension Regulator are slim. But if the regulator did come knocking are you ready to be inspected, and would you pass the inspection, or would you be another employer being fined?

If you’re concerned about your Automatic Enrolment compliance, speak to Bryan Stott for a free initial consultation.

All Bira members benefit from an auto-enrolment pension scheme with guaranteed acceptance.

Find out more about Bira Workplace Pensions


Please note, Automatic Enrolment is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.