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Independent retailer sales improve

Sales at independent retailers were down 3.1% for the first quarter of 2009, compared to the same period last year. However, this was an improvement on the 5.2% fall in the final quarter of last year.

According to the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) retail sales monitor, non-food independents continued to experience difficult trading. It said that overall year to date performance was down 2.1% on last year. The BSSA’s monitor said that clothing and footwear were among the weaker categories.

BSSA chief Executive John Dean said: “Given that over half of the businesses canvassed saw business decline by an average of 13.8% compared with Q1 in 2008, there is still little evidence to suggest that the tide is turning, although department stores’ overall average performance was down 1.3% for this quarter’ which represented a significant improvement over the previous quarter.

The BSSA added that the recent government announcement to defer 60% of the 2009 uplift in business rate rises was not seen as helpful by 68% of respondents to a survey.

Dean said: “Clearly the recent budget failed to address the need to reduce the increased costs burden currently facing the sector and independents in particular. We will therefore continue to press for more effective steps to be taken to retain retail jobs and to protect the viability of our high streets during the economic downturn”.

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