A tale of three High Street shops in Bristol

Jewellery shop in Bristol
Image caption Sad times at "Happy Island" jewellers in Bristol, which is closing for good this Christmas

Bristol's Gloucester Road is often voted one of the best High Streets in the country, a good place then to take the temperature of UK retailing.

And like the weather when we came, it is chilly.

Two jewellers here are closing for good this Christmas: Sparkles and Happy Island.

But on the same street a brand new shop is claiming trade is good.

Both Sparkles and Happy Island opened just before the credit crunch and both have felt the pinch as jewellery becomes a luxury item people are not buying.

Stephen Saliba, who owns Happy Island, said he had been working six days a week for five years, with no holiday.

"It's very sad because I've invested a lot of time and money into the property," he said.

"I'll be lucky if I leave without debts. I'm working flat out for the last five years with no gain really, very little profit and just keeping the shop going."

Gloomy outlook

There is one silver lining in Mr Saliba's cloud - his repair business is booming and he will keep this on after he closes, as customers make do and mend.

He is not alone.

A survey of 200 independent retailers in the West Country, by the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), found the average turnover was down 2.8% this year, compared to 2010.

Michael Weedon, BIRA's deputy chief executive, said 40% of his members had seen trade drop.

He said: "Retailers are always worried - and they're always optimistic.

"They think the rush will come in the remaining weeks before Christmas, there are a couple of weekends so they can do it.

"Footfall is not down, but people are restraining their expenditure this year and spending more cash than on credit cards."

Image caption The Pippa & Ike Show shop is celebrating its first Christmas and the owner is optimistic

He added that, although retail vacancy rates in town centres were increasing as some chains went bust, more independent retailers had been opening than closing.

He said: "People take opportunities where shops fall vacant. There are rent free periods, they may have a redundancy cheque in their pocket, maybe it's been a life-long dream."

Lianne Buiting, who is celebrating her first Christmas as a shopkeeper, is one example.

The Dutchwoman named her children's clothes shop The Pippa & Ike Show after her children.

She opened in February, after deciding 18 years as a freelance clothes designer was enough, and has already taken on staff.

She said: "Business is going really well despite the recession.

"You try to think to secure your future for after the recession and sometimes you have to make brave jumps to step forward in life.

"Some people spend a lot of money, most people get enthusiastic to see a new and fresh shop here, something really different."

Retailers have always adapted and they have always banked on Christmas, although this year's rush has yet to materialise.

If and when it does, the old and the new shops on the Gloucester Road will be very thankful.

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