BHF-BSSA calls for law changes to assist indies
BHF-BSSA chief executive Alan Hawkins has vowed to lobby for changes to laws that favour multiples over indies as he addressed the first annual general meeting of the newly merged indie trade association.
As he swore in the association’s new president John Morris, group managing director for indie department store group Tudor Williams, Hawkins said the new board would tackle the government on issues such as proposed hikes in National Insurance, the minimum wage and business rates as well as empty property costs and car parking charges.
Speaking at the AGM held at Aldwark Manor Hotel in York last week ahead of the general election, Hawkins said: “Whoever gets into power, we need to challenge them on these policies and any other costs that affect small businesses disproportionately over larger ones.”
He added that the BHF-BSSA, which owns its own bank, would fight against a bank tax because that could have a significant impact on the association.
The BHF-BSSA was created in September via a merger between the British Hardware Federation (BHF) and the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA) and now represents 8,000 independent retailers, including 2,000 fashion indies.
Indies present at the AGM were united on the issues raised by Hawkins. Nick Brown, managing director of North Yorkshire indie department store group Browns, said: “Government planning policies have been detrimental to city centres in the past decade and that needs to change.”
Two-store menswear indie Frederick L Mabb owner Gary Culver said: “Regulations imposed on retailers affect the smallest businesses unfairly because they cost them more pro rata.
“The BHF-BSSA needs to put these points to government while legislation is being formulated.”
The push for change came as the association released its quarterly sales survey, detailing the performance of indies in the three months to March 31. Clothing and footwear indies saw an average revenue dip of 1% in the three months to March 31 compared with the same period last year, and a year-on-year drop of 0.9% for the full year to March 31.
Indie department stores fared worse in the first quarter with sales down 4% year on year. However, their sales for the full financial year were up 1%. Hawkins said the figures were disappointing when set against weak comparatives in a tough 2009.
With an uncertain year for indies ahead, the BHF-BSSA is rallying for more stores to join the group. Membership fell back 8% in the BSSA division during 2009.
Hawkins said: “Now is the time to build on the merger and go aggressively forward to ensure independents survive on primary high streets.”
Morris added: “In some areas of the country the number of empty stores is ridiculous. Councils are swayed to give money to fund out-of-town developments rather than city centres because they don’t have to pay rates on car parking there.
“I don’t think they realise they are driving independents out of business.”
To contact the BHF-BSSA, telephone 0121 446 6688
“We need good car parking on the edge of pedestrian zones.” Nick Brown, Managing director of indie department store group Browns
“The parliamentary element to this association is vita l and the main reason why the smaller retailers should sign up.” Gary Culver, Owner of two-store menswear indie Frederick L Mabb
“We can’t kid ourselves we’re coming out of [recession].” Len Rosenfield Partner in Manchester menswear indie Men’s Wearhouse