Small retailers ‘more resilient’ than big chains during pandemic

Independent retail and leisure businesses in Britain have shown greater resilience in the Covid-19 pandemic than chain stores, according to new data.

Retail data consultancy the Local Data Company found that small independent firms on the High Street saw a net decline of 1,833 stores in the first half of 2020 — less than a third of the 6,001 chain stores lost.

During the first half of the year there were 20,019 closures of independent shops and 18,186 openings.

That compares with 11,120 closures for branded retailers with five or more stores, and 5,119 openings.

Taken together, there were 31,139 store closures and a net decrease of 7,834 shops.

With almost two-thirds (64%) of the retail and leisure market comprised of independent businesses, the gap between big and small firms is even greater in percentage terms with independent businesses declining by 0.54% versus 2.77% for chain outlets.

“The latest figures on the GB retail and leisure market tell the story of an immensely challenging few months for the retail and hospitality sector,” commented Lucy Stainton, head of Retail and Strategic Partnerships at the Local Data Company.

“While the independent market has fared much better than chains, it is still in decline and combined, these two sectors total the biggest decline seen in a H1 period since our records began.

Stainton said that independent businesses had fared better as they were able to be more agile, bringing in new product lines and offering deliveries. They also benefited from having a smaller cost base to cover during periods of little or no trade and were able to take advantage of government support schemes.

“However, as we continue through the year with various local lockdowns and restrictions, life will not get any easier for operators,” Stainton added. “These figures mark only the first phase in the impact of the pandemic on the retail economy this year with 20% of the market still temporarily shut and with more months of difficult trading conditions ahead.”

UK retail sales hit by wettest April on record

Retail sales in the UK were were dampened by the wettest April on record, according to a report released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor reveals that like-for-like sales fell 3.3% compared with April 2011, when sales rose 5.2% on a year earlier.

Comparisons for this time of the year are always affected by the timing of Easter. The BRC noted that this April’s comparison is with a very strong April 2011, which included all four days of Easter compared with only two in April 2010. In 2012 Easter was in early April, which meant that some Easter shopping was shifted into March.

Last April was also boosted by the Royal Wedding and the associated extra public holiday for people to shop or celebrate. Retailers are hoping that a 2012 feel-good factor will soon emerge in connection with this summer’s events, which include the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympic Games and the Euro 2012 football championships.

April’s heavy downpours and cold weather meant that consumers had little interest in summer fashions and outdoor products. Food retailers fared better, although the average shopping basket reflected the weather conditions, with shoppers choosing hot drinks, porridge, joints of meat and soups.

Meanwhile online sales of non-food items (including mail-order and phone sales) showed the weakest growth since November 2011, rising by 9.0% year-on-year against a relatively strong April 2011.

KPMG’s head of retail, Helen Dickinson, said that retail sales are expected to improve in May, but the overall health of the retail sector remains on a downward trajectory as people’s desire to consume “ever increasing volumes of goods” diminishes and advances in technology change the way we shop.