The independent electrical retailer in 2009 Is it you?

In Features On

This periodical survey, conducted by IER in association with leading floorcare brand BISSELL is based on survey questionnaire featured in the March 2009 issue of the magazine and online. Its aim was to obtain an in-depth insight into the lifestyle of electrical independents – their work environment and their professional and personal situation. We hope that you will be able to identify yourself with the picture we have created from the survey responses.

Is this you?

The average electrical independent is male, in his 50s (it was 40s in the 2006 survey). He is married.

Most likely he is the chairman/director or owner of his own business. Probably, he is part of a long established (for some 30 years), family-owned, private limited company, which has one store (it was two stores in the last survey). A quarter of respondents also have an e-commerce facility.

While nearly 40% of independents take their full holiday entitlement to ‘get away from it all’, the majority does not.

Three years ago they were optimistic about the future and looking forward to enjoying retirement. This time nearly 50% of respondents are pessimistic – not surprising with the impact of the credit crunch, the decline of the service sector and lower turnover. These were the main reasons given by the survey respondents. Significantly, seven in ten of them do not expect their business prospects to change.

At play

A DIY enthusiast or a keen gardener, the independent likes to read the Daily Mail (same as previous surveys) or Daily Express (it was The Times in 2006).

No doubt, to check his football team’s weekend results!

He still enjoys listening to his favourite music or reading a good book (similar pattern as before). But, keeping fit is important too. Radio 2 is very popular, followed by Radio 1 and local networks.

With the frantic life of electrical retailing, he needs a well-deserved break.

To unwind, many respondents say they take one to three weeks holiday each year. This is considerably less than the five weeks as reported in the 2006 survey. This reduction indicates that people are cutting back on holidays as they tighten their belts during the toughest trading conditions for years.

Over 60% do not take their full holiday quota – perhaps showing the need to work harder and longer in the current economic climate.

For those that do get away, Europe is their favourite holiday destination. In 2006, the respondents also mentioned such long-haul destinations as the USA, the Caribbean and Canada.

Home and work

Last time, one in two responding IER readers said they satisfactorily balance work and family life, but this survey shows that nearly 40% of independents feel that work adversely affects their family life.

Nearly one in three independents aimed to retire at 65 in the last survey.

However, this time it’s only 6%. Yet, 27% are looking to retire during the next five years. A similar number as last time want to retire at 70 – again possibly reflecting the ‘pension gap’, with people increasingly now being expected to retire later in life.

Thirty per cent stated the business is ‘theirs’ (previously there was nearly 50%). As before, around a third of independent retail operations are family owned.

Most respondents work between 16 and 40 hours a week. About one third do not have a professional qualification. However, 35% have an NVQ and 30% a degree. In 2003 only 5% of independents had higher education; in 2006 this increased to 11%.

The business

Many respondents – 44% – are CIH/Euronics members and 31% belong to retra. Over three quarters regularly attend trade shows; the most popular of which was CIH.

This time business turnover of the majority of survey respondents (40%) tends to be under £100k (it was between £101,000 and £499,000 in 2006, now just 25%). Only 10% (nearly a quarter previously) of firms now have a turnover of £1 – 5 million. This is indicative of the economic downturn impacting on independent retail businesses.

Over half of businesses have been established for over 30 years, with 16% notching up to 20-24 years. It isn’t surprising therefore that high standard of service and professional knowledge are their core values.

This time round, independent retailers are pessimistic about the future of their business.

Their biggest concerns are cheap electrical imports, followed by competition from internet dealers (a key issue before) and again excessive regulation. Higher taxes and the demise of distributors also worried some of the respondents.


The IER magazine and Bissell offer sincere thanks to all of you who participated in the survey. Your help has been invaluable in piecing together this portrait of today’s independent electrical retailer.

We offered all those who sent us their completed questionnaire the chance to win a BISSELL ProHeat All Rounder and a training session. First out of the hat was Colin Young of Clearview in Seaford.

Do you agree?

We would like to hear from readers who recognised themselves in the picture of the independent presented by our survey and from those of you who believe that they are distinctly different from the average described here.

Please write to Anna Ryland, IER Editor to: or to 15a London Road, Maidstone, Kent ME16 8LY.

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