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Bira bank achieves 1m turnover

At a time when it is difficult for businesses to get funding, the tills are ringing at a specialist bank for independent retailers.

Bira bank is celebrating the first time it has turned over a £1million in a month since it was established in 1955. The March record was 76 per cent up on a year ago.

The bank is owned by the British Independent Retailers Association and offers loans and savings deals to its members.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive officer at Bira, says: ‘The bank was started by members with a tiny capital of £27,000 and was designed to be a way for members to home their deposits and for lending for new vehicles and shop fittings.

‘It is the only trade association-owned bank. It still provides a profitable home for deposits and helps with other things such as loans and Isas. We do a lot and have a lot of expertise.

Confidence among independent retailers is rising sharply and is at its highest level since 2008 as overall trading continues to improve, according to Bira. Seven in ten independent retailers feel confident or very confident.

Quarter-on-quarter turnover figures show the balance of firms growing strongly, with those in growth nearly half as numerous again as in the same quarter in 2013. But more than 44 per cent of respondents are finding less in the till than at the same time a year ago.

Bira says: ‘The improvement is remarkable in the face of the fact that both our survey and official figures show that shop prices are continuing to fall. While results are not spectacular they are solid and gains in turnover are established on an upward curve. Optimism is rising in anticipation of more to come.’

Bira says 56 per cent of members taking part in the sales monitor for the first quarter of 2014 reported higher sales than in the same period in 2013. The body represents about 7,000 members across the UK, from single retail outlets to small chains as well as manufacturers and distributors.

The number of independent retailers in Britain has increased every year since 2009, although growth is tapering. According to research by Bira and the Local Data Company, more than 15,000 independents closed in 2013 while 16,000 opened. Sectors with the highest rate of growth included charity shops, convenience stores and tattooists.

Weedon says: ‘It is not a question with the economy of a rising tide floating all boats. It is still very tough for many. They all have to fight for their bit of turnover. The interesting thing is confidence is up in advance of the amount of business firms have. They are eternal incorrigible optimists.’

Source : Vicki Owen -

04 May 2014
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