How much does a shopkeeper earn?

Do you believe the news stories about how if you want to keep your high street shops open, shop local?  Or how shopping in independents puts money back into the local economy? Perhaps the message without the maths to back it up makes it all sounds a bit wishy-washy.  So here goes, a real-life example with data from this independent wool shop.

The Sheep Shop is an award-winning LYS (local yarn store) which had its fifth birthday in November.  Last year we took £60,500.  The annual cost for rent, gas, electric, water, phone, broadband, insurance, alarm maintenance, heater maintenance, fire extinguisher checks, not one but two licenses to play music on the radio, waste disposal, web hosting costs, sundries like till rolls, printer ink, loo rolls and teabags, carrier bags, window cleans, anti-moth systems, occasional  repair costs or new shop fixtures, card proceBoxes of stock to unpackssing fees, card machine rental, business membership, knitting magazine subscription fees and advertising (deep breath) came to £15,500.  I’m a bit of a tightwad so don’t think I’m paying over the odds for anything, nor buying anything I don’t need to.

Once the cost of new stock, teacher’s fees and their travel and accommodation costs are factored in there was £9,000 left, then once business loan repayments made, my take-home pay was £5,120.  That just about paid my personal rent and utilities so working tax credits – formerly £50 per week now £25 – is what I exist on, supplemented by my wonderful mother who every so often has surprised me with a big supermarket shop and filled my freezer.  My very lovely boyfriend (who I lured in on an online dating site with a statement that when I make my millions, he will benefit!) patiently puts up with me squawking if he wants lots of meat for dinner and my friends have almost stopped asking me to go anywhere or do anything.

Claiming tax credits when it is my choice to be self-employed used to make me feel a bit uncomfortable before I thought it through.  Several times more than those tax credits is going into the pockets of my (wonderful) teachers alone each week in class fees and if the shop did not exist I suspect it mostly wouldn’t be, so I feel the shop is a net gain to the public purse.Great Britain

Of what the shop sells, 35% of our money goes to local suppliers or teachers. 15% goes to other, truly British suppliers or teachers. 38% more goes to British suppliers but as not all their yarn is made in the UK some of that will end up abroad. Under 13% goes direct to foreign businesses.  Of the other goods and services we buy, where there is a choice, such as servicing the air conditioning, we use local contractors.  Apart from our purchases of things like knit group biscuits from the supermarket next door, and unavoidable things such as card processing fees, nearly all the money Sparkleduck Spiritwe spend is going back into British non-global-corporation hands.

Happily, my business loan has finally been paid off.  My (extremely lovely) landlady, who asks for a reasonable rent compared to most Cambridge premises, will probably still earn more than I do from the shop (with the crazy state of rents, if she turned this shop into flats she’d earn even more).  Shopkeepers talk, and almost every independent shopkeeper I have spoken to is earning less than minimum wage (quite often next to no wage) for a more than full time job.  If more people shopped with us, can you imagine the sparkly rainbows of delight you would be enveloped in every time you shopped in your even-happier-LYS-owner’s shop?

Some indie shops are able to offer online shopping and buying from them means you are keeping a LYS open somewhere.  Buying something you could get in a local shop from a discount online warehouse makes this happen.  The choice is down to you, if you want to keep shops on the high street they need to be shopped in, and every person counts.


13 thoughts on “How much does a shopkeeper earn?”

  1. Have just read your blog. Now I understand why my nearest town (Fareham, Hampshire) has no proper yarn shop and I have to travel 10 miles to visit one. I have bought yarn online but I feel better if I can see and feel it before I buy. You have fuelled my new New Years resolution. It is to visit the LYS first and purchase there if I can.
    You mention paying a lot in teachers’ fees. Could you not invite some of your talented customers to run help/tuition sessions? We knitters are like gardeners; we love to pass on our wisdom and enthusiasm and do it without charge!
    I wish you a busy and prosperous 2017.
    Lorna Irwin.

    1. Hi Lorna, what a great resolution. I feel proud to have encouraged you and hope you find many delights in your LYS. Regarding my teachers, I don’t resent at all paying for their services, in fact several are my talented customers who I’ve invited to teach. People are wonderful and often volunteer when a community event asks for (free) teachers, but for professional classes I actually prefer to pay. Thank you so much for your kind words and I hope you get the chance to pass your enthusiasm on. Long live the knitting! Sarah.

  2. When I travel or go on holiday I always look for LYS before I set off and look forward to visiting you in the not too distant future.

  3. Well put and said, I’m the same in our Craft Shop that I run in Loughborough. I’m sure people think I’m made of money and do our business as a hobby and have all the products we sell come free and we make a packet. I’ve been running our shop for 6 years now and I do employ one part time member of staff, which we need as she is very good at her job and we could’nt do it with out her. Has far to date I have not taken a wage out of our business because I carn’t. yet either people think I’m well off or just do it for my health. Well it’s not either, every month is getting harder and if I don’t work hard keeping it going there is no one else is going to do it for me. This is why the high street is really dying, there is no help for small trader by the government or councils. Some times the bills out weigh takings. Big companies drive down the price of products also is a very big factor. I’d also like to know if anyone as a small shop experiences customers asking for discounts, people say to me I don’t know what they would do if I closed then in the next breath asking for a discount or can we do better on the price! Do they try this in tescos? No then why ask in a small shop who is trying to make a living.

    1. People do occasionally ask for discounts, but I have a loyalty card system already so let them know that is the case. I hope things change for the better for you wage-wise. Our government isn’t exactly into protectionism which is what we need to compete with the internet and big box stores (other countries have it!).

  4. The same is true in the U.S. and we’ve sadly watched the LYS fade away. I’m passing this article along to my knitting group and hope every lady will make a shop visit soon! Best wishes for success!

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