Today has been dubbed Independents’ Day, when consumers are urged to show their support for local traders, but the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is calling on the government to give its backing to retailers of all shapes and sizes in the months ahead.
BRC Director General Stephen Robertson says encouraging people to visit stores they would not usually go into can only be a positive initiative for the industry, but in a statement released today he warns that customers alone cannot revive ailing British high streets.
He argues that lower property costs and less burdensome employment legislation would make a “substantial difference” to the fortunes of both small and large retailers, while getting the right combination of businesses into individual communities is another key driver of success.
“Independent shops are a vital part of UK retailing and town centres benefit from a good mix of unique businesses alongside recognisable big names,” said Robertson.
“Given the right conditions, independents and multiples can both thrive. It’s a mistake to think one part of the sector can only succeed at the expense of another.”
Retail Acumen consultant Clare Rayner has led the campaigning for Independents’ Day in the UK, and she told Retail Gazette last week that the aim of the initiative was to draw attention to the sector throughout July, providing it with a timely boost in light of many retailers’ struggles.
Rayner and the independent retailers involved in the programme will be offering a number of deals and using social media to generate interest and engagement in the project, and there will be a daily blog showcasing innovative ideas and best industry practice as the month draws on.
Many industry observers agree that it is a worthy cause and a positive move to try and reinvigorate the high street, but significant infrastructure changes are required to make a real difference.
“What’s needed for the long-term is comprehensive action to support and revitalise our high streets for the benefit of all retailers,” Robertson notes.
“Government and local authorities need to work with businesses to create safe, attractive town centres with good transport links and affordable parking.”