Independent retailers in the US have never really come together to form a trade association with far-reaching goals, but thousands of our colleagues in the UK enjoy the benefits of bira (The British Independent Retailers Association). Of course I think that “buy local” organizations like BALLE and AMIBA are great. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an association that also provided everything from fire safety services to customer care training programs?

I’d love to sign up for the Irish Retail Study Tour and the Oxford Summer School, wouldn’t you? The British organization also offers legal advice, and in 2013 launched MyHigh.St as an aggregation channel for small businesses. As one might expect, there are also opportunities for credit card processing and member discounts.

Bira serves as an advocate for independent retailers in the political arena. As their web site states, “We influence public debate, we monitor and shape new legislation through the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, keeping bira members one step ahead. We work hard to assist government in its information-gathering activities, carrying out regular surveys of our members to find out how trade is for them.”

Many of the key topics which bira is currently targeting its efforts on are similar to those concerning US retailers:

    Planning

    Parking

    Property taxes

    People costs and the National Minimum Wage

    Payment regulation and interchange fees

    Vehicle weights and speeds

    Consumer rights regulation

    Regulatory enforcement and Primary Authority

The organization seeks media coverage on behalf of its membership, “regularly appearing in local, national and trade press, on local and national radio and TV fighting for the rights of independent retailers and giving our members a voice.”

Perhaps we can adapt a few of the ideas of The British Independent Retailers Association on our side of the Atlantic — if not at the national level, at least regionally.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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