This year, the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) celebrates 120 years supporting independent retailers.
Since 1899 when BIRA’s predecessors – the Ironmongers Federation, the British Hardware Federation and the Drapers Chamber of Trade (DCT) were formed, and following a number of business acquisitions and partnerships, including the British Shops and Stores Association in 2009, Bira has championed independent business owners.
Today, BIRA represents thousands of independent businesses, from cookshops and hardware stores to pet, furniture and coffee shops, anywhere that has a business rated premises. Members benefit from exclusive service offers, better buying terms and business support. BIRA also works behind the scenes to promote the interests of independent businesses with Government, trying to even the playing field between bricks and mortar and online businesses, fighting on things like business rates, knife sales and parking.
BIRA CEO, Andrew Goodacre said: “We are incredibly proud of our 120-year heritage. In this tough economic climate and the incredible changes that retail is currently going through, to still have members today that joined in the early days of the association really is an achievement. It shows how well independent retailers can adapt to change in order to survive, by constantly adapting to their changing customers and environment.”
Lawsons, a kitchen, homewares and hardware retail business with
branches across Devon, have been members since the 1970's. Liz Lawson said: “My father John had taken over the business in the 70's and asked Bira to carry out an overview of the business so that he could understand what was going on. It turned out it wasn’t doing very well but with the Association’s support and information he turned it around and within three years it started trading profitably.
“There are many valuable attributes that Bira has provided our business with, such as insurance, business loans, buying and lobbying government to mention a few. However, I think the most valuable thing Bira has provided us with is the connections with other retailers. Whilst we all run different businesses we all face the same challenges and issues and we can learn from each other and very often help each other; together we are stronger. Running your own business can at times feel lonely and you don’t always know the answer, so Bira membership and support is invaluable.”