Market stalls in the East of England are ‘among the most financially stable in the UK’

Norwich market in the spring sunshine. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich market in the spring sunshine. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Market stall holders in the East of England are outperforming the vast majority of their national counterparts, according to new research which shows they are among the most financially stable in the UK.

Norwich market in the spring sunshine. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich market in the spring sunshine. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

March retail figures compiled by insolvency and restructuring body R3's Eastern branch, using Bureau Van Dijk's Fame database, show that fewer than one-in-three – 30.8% – in the region are at higher than normal risk of insolvency, which is one of the lowest percentages in the UK. Northern Ireland (43.2%) topped the table, with the UK average settling at 32.6%.

But booksellers in the East were found to be at above-average risk of insolvency, with 44.6% at risk, compared to 36.2% nationally.

Over the whole retail sector, R3 found one-in-three East of England retailers (35.2%) had an elevated insolvency risk, up from 27.3% six months earlier.

R3 Eastern Chair Mark Upton said: 'The retail sector has suffered some high profile casualties in the last few months, and there are many more still struggling. Recent administrations have included Maplin, New Look and the UK arm of Toys R Us, while profit warnings have come from other household-name businesses such as Debenhams and Mothercare.

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'Here in the East of England, the percentage of retail firms at greater than usual risk of insolvency was higher in March this year than at any point in 2017. Surging inflation and rising fixed costs – including higher business rates and increases in the National Minimum and Living Wage – have added greatly to the financial pressure faced by local retailers.

'There are glimmers of hope, however, as retailers such as Aldi, Lidl, Oliver Bonas and Primark continue to invest in new store openings, and the wider retail sector embraces the internet as a key factor in supporting and driving retail sales.'

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Mr Upton, an accountant with Ensors in East Anglia, said businesses in trouble should seek advice as early as possible.

'For those retailers who continue to struggle, it is important to note that there are always several rescue and recovery options available,' he added. 'Timing, however, is critical. The sooner expert advice is sought from a regulated insolvency or restructuring professional, the more can be done to provide the best possible outcome.'

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