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ONS independents sales data raises industry eyebrows

Official statistics suggesting that independent retailers saw a bumper Christmas have been met with scepticism in the industry.

Last week the Office for National Statistics published its December retail sales data, showing that non-food retailers saw sales rise 4.2%, with small retail businesses up an unexpected 8.3%, compared with 3.3% for large businesses.

But trade bodies and analysts alike have warned that these figures could yet be proved wrong. Independent analyst Nick Bubb said “life is different on the Planet ONS”, adding “these are the same “Small Businesses”, ie the independents, which are all going bust and have no Online exposure”.

Bubb added: “The response rate from small businesses to the monthly ONS surveys is very low, which is why the ONS has to estimate their sales and it constantly seems to assume that the weak/missing retailers will have done as well as the good/reporting retailers. As the figures come in later, the months get revised down in due course… but the economists just seem to lap it all up.”

Michael Weedon of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) agreed.

“These figures raised all our eyebrows,” he told the Guardian. “The shops in our community are seeing flat sales at best…. What we’ve seen from our figures in three out of the last four quarters is that turnover has fallen because prices have been down.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • As an Independent, we've only been asked once from the ONS in 50 years. Either they cherry pick who they ask or they just make it up. You can't take these figures too seriously, even if there has been a marginal improvement for some.

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  • A laughable statement from the can anyone take them seriously if the figures are estimated upon assumptions!

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  • Would be interesting to better define the independents. Are these higher end fashion boutiques or men's tailors or does this encompass non food retailers exclusive to fashion (e.g. DIY stores, electrical, furniture; bathrooms; bicycle shops etc).

    Does Drapers have access to what the splits are within the Independent sector?

    It's a bit premature to criticise the ONS and their methods / sample sizes.

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