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Independent retailers – kitchens or otherwise – are the future of High Streets

Bill Halliday

Independent retailers – kitchens or otherwise – are the future of High Streets

As I’ve always said…

Regular readers of our blog will know how passionate we are about being an independent fitted kitchen retailer and our feelings on the importance not only to the communities in which they operate but to the national economy too.

And for the past few years it would be easy to think that all independent retailers are on a slippery slope to oblivion thanks to the poor state of the economy, the march of multiple chain stores, out of town retailing and the Internet.

Until now!  A report published this week – Independents are the future of High Streets (source: The Local Data Company) exposes the myth that the Independent retailer is dead when in fact they’re in pretty rude health.

The report, to summarise its findings, states that ‘openings and closures of all retail and leisure outlets in the top 500 town centres in 2011 shows that independents opened three times more stores (15,233) than the chain stores (5,094).  Indisputably, 2011 was also a turbulent year in these town centres where 12,669 independents ‘shut up shop’ and the chains closed 5,268 units resulting in total closures of 17,937.  However, the net change (openings less closures) was positive as independent occupied units grew by 2,564 (+2.4%) whilst multiple units declined by 174 units (-0.25%)’.

That’s not to say that independent retailing – whether it is in new kitchens or any other sector of retail – is easy.  Retailers need to work hard, be creative and work with their communities to create a point of difference versus the multiples in order to develop a successful business.  Too many think all they have to do is open their doors and customers will just turn up, which I’m sure has never been the case.

Indeed, just this weekend, we hosted another of our successful and hugely enjoyable ‘kids’ cupcake decorating’ days in our showroom at Stony Stratford near Milton Keynes.  The local Business Association were promoting a food ‘Feastival’ which we’d agreed to participate in and use to raise money for a small local charity called Ted’s Gang ( that was set up to raise awareness of and research funding for a little known condition called Shwachman Diamond Syndrome which affects about one in a million children.

By the end of the day we’d seen nearly 20 children – aged 18 months to over 80 (seriously!) – at our cupcake and doggy biscuit decorating day and raised £132 for Ted and his Gang to support their worthwhile cause.

However, as one interested visitor put it, “so few retailers make the effort to undertake such activities”.

Which, to me, is odd!  OK, so we may not have sold any kitchens on the day (but let’s face it, nobody buys a new kitchen on a whim!) but we’ve created a lot of goodwill with potential future customers and, more importantly, helped out a really worthwhile cause.

So I’d say to all independent retailers that you have to make the effort to succeed.  Investing your time can go a long way to promoting yourself and generating some great goodwill which, if you’re able to stick at it long enough, will reap its rewards.

Independent retailers really should be the glue that binds every community.  I doubt many of our multiple chain store competitors would put the effort in in the way we did yesterday and consumers are increasingly recognising this if The Local Data Company’s report is to be believed.

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