Research commissioned by ATL called Diversity in Shopping reveals that there are 68,000 retail businesses in the UK owned by people from ethnic minorities. The result is that they provide more than one in eight of the jobs in the retail industry which equates to 373,000 people and has sales revenue of £32.96bn a year.
The study, the largest of its kind looked specifically at small and medium sized retailers owned by Black and Minority Ethnic retailers and the issues faced by them compared to white-owned businesses.
ATL are a Yorkshire based company who specialise in diversity and enterprise development. The research was conducted by Professor Joshua Bamfield from the Centre for Retail Research in Nottingham, who surveyed 1,000 small and medium sized retailers in the UK.
The surveys were carried out via the telephone by the Nottingham based centre using a sample covering the UK from trade groups that included supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, jewellers, electric shops, DIY and fashion. The largest categories were white – 366, Asian – 337, black – 92 and Chinese – 38.
The report concludes a Retail Link programme, funded by the DTI Phoenix Fund, and administered by ATL for developing and supporting successful Black Minority Ethnic retailers in West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Leicester.
The report comes at a time when there has been much criticism of a few giant retailers who are dominating the British high street. An All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group have produced a report entitled High Street Britain 2015, that states the referral of supermarket chains by the Competition Commission is evidence of this concern.
The ATL report highlights that support for rapid growth of black and ethnic minority retailing may have competition benefits to the consumers.
Ethnic retailers in the late 1970’s invented convenience stores for the local community. In the 1990s Tom Singh invented New Look after he identified a gap in the market. Other fast growing small retailers may be a challenge to Tesco, Dixons, Boots and Ikea in a few years’ time providing they are given support and opportunity.
The report found that 55 per cent of Black Minority Ethnic retailers are “mainstream” as opposed to “niche” stores that serve their own community.
White-owned shops were bigger than ethnic stores, but the ethnic store were doing better than the white-owned stores selling general merchandise, electrical goods, furniture, hardware and clothing.
Ethnic retailers tend to buy directly from overseas suppliers rather than from UK based wholesalers. This meant that there is often family, social and business networks which increases the development of import and export wholesale businesses which then compete with traditional white-owned wholesalers.