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Numbers reveal sum of retailers’ efforts

The latest British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) survey tells us that fashion indies may not be loving life too much at the moment.

The latest British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) survey tells us that fashion indies may not be loving life too much at the moment. While there are smiling accountants at some outfits, there are grim managers at others, just as for every SuperGroup there is a Jane Norman. The numbers for the second quarter in the BIRA Sales Monitor show turnover in this sector sliding by more than 5%, the second disappointing three-month period in a row.

We all see weekly or monthly results from the big retailers and constantly adjust our estimate about the direction in which the industry is headed, and often we are confounded.

So, a nationally loved partnership, for example, can report a bumper week, month, quarter, whatever, but the headline figure may well conceal the fact that almost all of the stores reported negative results.

So it is with indies, although it’s even harder to find out how they are doing, because they really are concentrating very hard on the realities of life, like buying and selling, and telling the world how things are in surveys is not at the top of their to-do list.

But they do manage it, and the patterns that appear in the numbers they all put in tell us a lot about the changing realities in what is, right now, a hard retail market. These are the realities that we describe to the Bank of England, for example. They need to know.

Day by day, the warm enthusiasm of the retailers for the products they sell and the people they serve shines through. The love is for the products, but the life is in the numbers. In the end, in business, it always comes down to the numbers.

  • Michael Weedon is deputy chief executive and communications director of the British Independent Retailers Association

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