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High streets draw more independents while chains back out

Published: 25 March 2014
New figures released today show that entrepreneurship is still thriving in UK high streets, with traditional independent shops increasing whilst chains continue to retreat.
High streets draw more independents while chains back out
The survey of town shopping areas in 2013 by The Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) shows that 44 independents opened every day during the year, but that chain retailers closed 16 shops a day.

LDC and BIRA also point out that independent high street businesses have continued to grow every year since 2009, although in smaller numbers over the years. In 2010 the net change (openings minus closures) grew by 4% but by last year this growth had reduced to 0.7% - just 725 units.

Retailers of non-perishable goods, however, are an exception, suffering an accelerating decline to -291 units.

The survey shows key growth sectors as mobile phone shops, barbers, beauty and nail salons, tattooing and piercing outlets and convenience stores. Stores in decline include women's clothing and fashion, newsagents, jewellers, pound shops, furniture shops, shoe shops and bars.

Towns with the greatest percentage of independents are Barnes, where they account for 96.6% of retailers, followed by Torre (Torquay), East Barnet, Glastonbury and Stow-on-the-Wold. Towns with the least are Telford, where only 18.4% of shops are independent, followed by Salford, Runcorn, Yate and Bracknell.

Across the board, independents now account for 66% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson commented: "Against all odds independent retail and leisure businesses have continued to grow in our town centres. Whilst growth has slowed fourfold since 2009, the key fact is that there continues to be vitality and entrepreneurship on our high streets.

"Chain retailer activity has been the reverse, with more closures than openings happening since 2012 and with more forecast to come. A 3% growth in 2010 has moved to a -0.6% decline in 2013.

"Increasingly independents are adjusting to the new challenges of the total retail world (online and offline) as well as the competition they face from their big chain brothers. Independents are an important part of every town and are the one thing that drives diversity in what has become a homogenous world."

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive at BIRA, added: "The churn is huge, with more than 15,000 independents closing in 2013 - but nearly 16,000 opening their doors for the first time. The real organic fertility of the high street is illuminated by the LDC data. The margin of growth is tantalisingly fine, with net growth in independents of only 762 overall last year. But this was the third year of this kind of growth and this kind of change.

"It is not a fluke. It is consistent. It is real and it has reduced the LDC shop vacancy rate to below 14% for the first time since 2010."

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