Bira Member Magazine: April 2017

01 Apr 2017

The Latest news and updates from Bira, including members stories from Rachel Riley and The Priory Bridlington.

Read the Bira Rates Manifesto and find out how Rachel Riley built a worldwide brand from her kitchen table.


Beware the danger of reducing staff

CEO Alan Hawkins appeals for a fair cost base to offer independents a chance

I DON’T WANT to do a Budget analysis in my article this month as it’s been well covered elsewhere and our official response is on p3. The central disappointment for me, along with many sharing the same objectives as bira, is that while bricks-and-mortar high streets need some immediate help with the latest rates increases, only another medium-term review has been signalled. This isn’t the whingeing south objecting to northern gainers in a tax redistribution; the rates unfairness is wider than that.

These are unprecedented times in retail. I suspect we are at the start of a change curve. No one has a God-given right to be here, as the British shipbuilding or motorcycle industries attest. Independents on the high street need to prove their worth. This will never be on price; it will always be based on value, service and product knowledge, not forgetting bringing new products and different ideas to consumers. Buying from an independent probably means getting it right first time.

That’s why a fair cost base is so critical. Independents need to employ people to deliver their uniqueness but the unfair distribution of cost to bricks-and-mortar means the requirement to cut staff, one of the biggest controllable overheads, is becoming a necessity rather than the result of a proper analysis of becoming efficient.

Without good people an independent business has no future, so the government needs to set a fair model. There should be variance between different types of firms but retail generally is paying a massive over-proportion of the property-based rates bill.

I was recently on a panel about rates with, among others, a representative of the economic think tank Adam Smith Institute, which argues that challenges weed out poor businesses and replace them with better ones.

Bira is here to help the progressive independents change habits and modernise, while contacting and retaining their customers in new and exciting ways.

A good example of our work is our conference programme this year (please take heed of the plug and see more on p8-9).

But advancement must be done in the context of a level playing field, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses. The direction of travel just now is definitely uphill.

In this edition

2 - Trade News: Budget dodges the rates question, high street footfall inches up, CHA rebrands.

7 - Business rates manifesto: Bira sets out its vision for a fairer, workable business rates system for England.

8 - Bira conference & awards 2017: Join other innovative and progressive independents in Bristol on 8 May.

11 - The Priory, Bridlington: The men’s premium fashion store serves the world from the Yorkshire Riviera.

12 - Making a mark in marketing: Bira members from around the country share ideas to tempt customers in store.

16 - Rachel Riley: all things nice: How the kidswear designer built up a worldwide brand from her kitchen table.

21 - Time to think differently: Indie retailers reveal the secrets of attending the Oxford Summer School.

32 - The Last Word: Shaun Higgs of The Sheaf Street Health Store in Daventry just loves retailing.

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