Hard 10 years for butcher start ups

Traditional independent butchers and other retailers that started up business in the UK over the last 10 years are in steep decline, having peaked in 2003 according to a survey.

The research, conducted by ICC Credit, a UK credit reference agency, shows the number of butchers, grocers, fishmongers and off-licences have grown steadily since 1996, with 326 incorporations, to a total of 1,575 companies in 2003. However, by 2004, this figure had fallen to 959.

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT), said the figures may not have the full picture: "There is an interesting point in the text. They say that 2003 was a peak year for 'limited company incorporations'.

"Most small shops are family owned or are sole proprietors but, in recent years, accountants have been advising them to become limited companies either because of the tax advantages or the protection that being "limited" can bring. So it could be that these were not necessarily new businesses but rather established ones changing their structure." He said there were around 8,000 independent retail butchers in the UK and the rate of decline had bottomed out in the last few years with some new businesses starting up.

In the ICC Credit report, Helen Kings, marketing manager for ICC Credit, said smaller independent retailers were struggling with 3.5% of butchers in liquidation or administration. years ago and so in that context the high-street retailers would appear to be doing well."

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