UK retailers defy slow summer and express optimism over Christmas and 2013 trading conditions

Retailers are optimistic for the future, reveals a major industry survey* conducted by Autumn Fair International 2012 – one of the UK’s largest retail trade exhibitions. Store owners call for free parking, lower business rates and shorter leases to help high street reach its potential in 2013.

Despite poor performance on the high street this summer, 86% of UK retailers are either optimistic about or undaunted by Christmas trading prospects this year and 85% see strong or steady company growth levels in 2013.

The survey of 845 independent, multiple and online retailers from across the UK paints a different picture to recent retail pessimism. While today’s British Retail Consortium figures confirm that the Olympics has not delivered the spending spree that had been hoped for, and recent CBI findings have found consumer confidence remains volatile, it would appear that this has not impacted retailers’ attitudes towards the future of their industry.

Commenting on the findings, Louise Young, Divisional Director of Autumn Fair International 2012 said, “It is encouraging to see that despite a climate of negativity, retailers are defying the status quo.  Retailers have had to become nimble to survive these turbulent economic times, and these echoes of optimism reflect a confidence in their continued agility.

“We can definitely see this positive attitude feeding through to retailers’ buying patterns at this year’s Autumn Fair. Suppliers are offering what is wanted with a greater emphasis on innovation and retailers buying closer to the season so they can respond faster to customer demand. However, these findings certainly don’t deny that retail is at the front line of the recession. Yet, if the industry is to recover to full health, we must stop scaremongering and embrace the real efforts retailers have made in recent years to adapt their offer to today’s consumers.”

When asked what more could be done to revive the UK’s beleaguered high streets and town centres, retailers provided clear and pragmatic responses. Nearly three quarters (72%) agreed that lower business rates are needed to improve trading conditions. Free or lower car parking charges were also cited by 66% of respondents as a solution that could be offered by local councils to support local retailers. Shorter leases and ending upward-only rent reviews were also suggested by a third of the retailers questioned (33%) as a solution available from landlords to help the high street reach its full potential.

*Autumn Fair International surveyed a total of 845 retailers between August 28-31 via an online survey.