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Indies’ sales slump by 5.2%

Independent non-food retailers experienced a sales decline of 5.2% for the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the British Shops & Stores Association’s (BSSA) sales monitor survey.

The BSSA said it was even more alarming to find that 70% of retailers surveyed had experienced an average sales fall of 12% over the quarter, which included the crucial Christmas sales and Boxing Day discounting periods.

Independent department stores were one of the hardest hit sub-sectors, possibly because of pre-Christmas discounting at multiple rivals Debenhams and House of Fraser, but the BSSA said fashion independents had also suffered, and were not immune to the slowdown in sales between October and December.

Independents in Scotland fared better during the period, reporting an overall sales rise of 1.8%, but all areas of England were in negative territory in terms of performance.

BSSA chief executive John Dean warned: “While independents are being very resourceful and managing their businesses with financial rigour, there is a great concern that unless they can rapidly re-establish lines of credit with their banks, some excellent and profitable businesses are likely to fail in the forthcoming months.”

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