Smaller businesses buck failing high street trend

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The total value of retail sales during 2014 is predicted to be an “all-time high” of £342bn, growth of £42bn when placed next to figures from 2010.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which has put together the research, has said that a large part of this can be attributed to the “record year” smaller firms have experienced – posting sales of £72bn during the year.

Shopping “events” such as Black Friday, which Real Business reported led to a 37 per cent spike in digital sales over the last year, and Cyber Monday, Manic Monday and the pre-Christmas November sales meant takings were up by 5.2 per cent compared with 2013.

Small Business Saturday, held on the first Saturday of December for the second year running, saw 2.7m more shoppers get involved with the initiative. Speaking to Real Business in November, Chuka Umunna, shadow business ministers and individual responsible for bringing the US-created Small Business Saturday movement to the UK, said of the 2013 event: “What we know from the research carried out by American Express was that it helped push nearly half a billion pounds worth of extra trade to them on the day, with of course the follow-up benefits of people visiting firms for the first time on the day and then returning.”

This year, it is predicted the 16m people that shopped small on 6 December contributed an average of £30.56 each – £504 million across the UK, and up £36m on last year. Furthermore, in the run up to Christmas, 23 December was expected to be the busiest shopping day for the high street – worth £1.3bn.

Business minister Matthew Hancock said that the high street figures demonstrate Britain contains more businesses that are “starting up, thriving and creating jobs”.

“We have consistently backed retail and the review of the business rates announced in this year’s Autumn Statement should be another big boost for Britain’s high streets,” he added.

“The rise of independent retailers is testament to the wave of entrepreneurialism sweeping the UK as part of our strong economic recovery.”

Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement address on 3 December announced a review of business rates in the hope that more breathing space could be provided for struggling high street companies. A call for submissions from business groups on the issue was also made.

The BIS has also revealed the retail sector represents 10 per cent of the UK workforce, at 3m people and 90,000 apprentices, and is set to grow.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, believes the rise of internet shopping means barriers to entry are lower than ever.

“Established retailers are also doing well and the crucial shopping period in the run up to Christmas (including Black Friday) saw total sales up 2.2 per cent compared with November last year,” she said.

“We’re delighted that the government has decided to back British retailing by committing to review the business rates system.”

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