Retailers and restaurants hoping for an uplift in trade after three bank holidays last month have been left disappointed as sales growth slowed to its lowest level in six months.

The slump has led to some local business owners pleading with customers to use independent businesses or risk losing them. 

The cost of living crisis and soaring inflation has seen consumers rein in their spending as they struggle against rising costs.

Eastern Daily Press: Independent businesses hit as spending slowsIndependent businesses hit as spending slows (Image: Denise Bradley / Newsquest)

Unlike national chains, local business owners usually do not have the ability to tap into revenue or resources to tide them over during long periods of consumer downturns. 

For many, this means that if people stop coming to their restaurant, cafe or shop they have no option but to permanently shut.


'Use us or lose us' 

Monty Ali, owner of a Norwich-based restaurant Rishi Indian, said: "We understand the cost of living crisis but without supporting businesses there will be no one left. 

"We are certainly not alone in this either. 

"I put my life into making Rishi work for my staff and family and we need to see our tables being used. 

"We have won awards previously and know we are well-loved by our customers. 

"Please, please support local businesses. This is a call to arms to support all restaurants like ours." 


High energy costs

Independent businesses have not only been impacted by falling customer numbers, but have also seen their own costs - especially gas and electricity - rise. 

Eastern Daily Press: Brendan Gray, owner of the Station Bistro at Wymondham Rail StationBrendan Gray, owner of the Station Bistro at Wymondham Rail Station (Image: Daniel Moxon)

Earlier this year, a cafe in Wymondham, Station Bistro, narrowly avoided closure after its energy bills more than doubled. 

Fixing into a new gas and electric contract helped save the business, along with locals flocking to the cafe to show their support after finding out about the owner's plight. 

Talking at the time, owner Brendan Gray said: "People had been concerned after reports about our situation came out.

"We had nice feedback. Customers said that they don't want to lose the cafe."


Inflation and interest rates 

Despite inflation falling to 8.7pc in April, the drop wasn't as much as was initially expected. 

This contributed to the Bank of England decision to raise interest rates to 4.5pc in an attempt to help bring down inflation to its target of 2pc. 

For many borrowers - particularly those with a mortgage - higher interest rates means that the cost of their debt increases, leaving them with less money at the end of the money. 

This is having a knock-on effect on businesses as people continue to be cautious with their spending. 

Eastern Daily Press: Governor of the Bank of England Andrew BaileyGovernor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey (Image: PA Wire)

Figures released by BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found that total UK retail sales increased by 3.9pc last month, against a decline of 1.1pc in May 2022 and below the three-month average growth of 4.7pc. 

It also found that the growth in discretionary spending continued to tumble as the high cost of living squeezed households.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “With consumer confidence still recovering from record depths, and continued tightening of household incomes, we are unlikely to see substantial sales growth in the coming months.

“But, with signs that inflation has possibly peaked, retailers are hopeful that confidence will continue to improve.”

Separate figures from Barclays show consumer card spending grew just 3.6pc year-on-year in May, down from April’s 4.3pc, as Britons cut back on discretionary purchases to cope with mounting inflation and food prices.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclays, said: “Consumers are still paying close attention to their everyday spending, and we are seeing growing concerns around ‘shrinkflation’ in the weekly shop.

“Many are having to forgo discretionary purchases to offset rising food prices, with clothing and restaurants most impacted."