Taxes, Economy, Energy/Fuel Costs Worry Small Retailers Most: Study

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Taxes, Economy, Energy/Fuel Costs Worry Small Retailers Most: Study

NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- Small retailers said they are most concerned about taxes, the general state of the economy, and energy/fuel costs, according to the latest Small Business Research Board (SBRB) study co-sponsored by Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based business consultancy International Profit Associates (IPA) and released Friday.

Rounding out the top five retail headaches in the national poll were health care costs and finding quality employees. The retailers were interviewed during the second quarter of 2007.

The survey also gauged small retailers' interest in expanding their operations over the next 12 to 24 months. Just 31 percent of the respondents -- less than one-third -- said they would expand during this period. Of those respondents, almost 22 percent said they would add more services, while a little over 20 percent said they would add new products.

Poll participants also said they would expand at current locations (18.8 percent) or through the addition of new locations (also 18.8 percent). Enhanced customer services came in fifth, at 14.4 percent.

The small retailers said improving staff training would be key to productivity improvements over the next 12 to 24 months. Adding more automation or technology, adding staff, and improving current automation and technology ranked second through fourth.

"In an environment that places a premium on the skill and capabilities of its employees in every aspect of the business, it is imperative that retailers create and implement training programs that are aimed at improving operational and sales issues as well as productivity," noted IPA president Gregg M. Steinberg.

The study further found that 51 percent of the respondents believe the economy will improve over the next 12 months, and that 61 percent believe their revenues will rise during the same period. Retailers intend to increase hiring to support their opinion: 41 percent say they will add employees, while 35 percent intend to maintain current staff levels.

This is the first study of the retail industry by the SBRB, which intends to issue quarterly retail industry studies going forward, as it does for other industries, including manufacturing, construction and contracting, and food processing.

The SBRB ascertains and reports the opinions of small-business owners and managers on a wide variety of topics related to their own businesses as well as national and international issues that may affect their operations.