Business development · 31 March 2016

Storm Katie delivers another blow to small retailers

storm katie
Shoppers shunned the high street in favour of online shopping over Easter

New figures from retail analyst Springboard have revealed that high street footfall over the Easter weekend was down almost five per cent compared to 2015, with Storm Katie named as the culprit.

Shops in some of the areas worst affected by the storm were unable to trade at all over the bank holiday weekend due to the scale of the destruction caused. Digital retailers were the main beneficiaries of the poor weather, with online sales seven per cent higher over the first key retail weekend of the year.

“Easter 2016 has been an interesting trading experience for both UK retailers and e-commerce – it revealed how the two trading platforms complement each other,” said Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle.

“Easter Monday is usually the best day for high street retailers because people have finished all their DIY,” she added. “However, as Storm Katie swept in, it seems shoppers have chosen to stay at home rather than venturing out into the wind and rain.”

For the owners of the UK’s smallest shops, the storm comes as an additional blow on top of the imminent implementation of the National Living Wage on 1 April.

Research carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in October 2015 found that almost 40 per cent of small firm owners believe the change will have a negative impact on their firm.

FSB predictions in the organisation’s Cost of Employment index also suggested that a small retail business with six full time staff aged 25 or over and earning the minimum wage will see wage bills rise by £5,900 when the policy comes into place.

The most recent survey of local shop owners, published by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) on 21 March 2016, revealed that retail owners are positive about future growth prospects despite recent poor performance.

“The recent sales performance reported by retailers puts their optimism in perspective.  We have hit a two-year low in terms of the number of retailers reporting a decline in sales, and while the mild, wet winter may explain this in part, it shows that this is a tough sector where retailers have to earn every bit of growth,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman.

If you’re a small retailer trying to weather the storm, make sure your customer service isn’t letting you down.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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