Latest findings released by the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) show that traditional independent retailers opened significantly more shops than in the same period last year, whilst the national chains (with more than five stores nationally) continued to see a fall.
Independent shops saw an increase of +762 shops (+0.27 per cent) in H1 2017. This is a significant rise from the net increase of +4 shops (+0.00 per cent) in H1 2016. A net increase of +562 units in H1 2017 on the high streets was one of the main drivers in the growth of independent retailing in H1 2017, with this being a +181 per cent increase from the +200 unit growth in H1 2016.
The chain retailers have remained in decline with a net loss of -659 shops (-0.33 per cent) in H1 2017 across Great Britain, which compares to -2,001 shops (-1.02 per cent) in H1 2016.
Service Retail (health & beauty, financial services, tattoo parlours and estate agents) increased by the greatest number of units, an increase from 2016 at +859 units (+0.94 per cent in H1 2017 versus +0.52 per cent in H1 2016). Key growth sectors have been Barbers, Cafes, Tobacconists/e-cigarette shops, and Hair & Beauty salons.
Leisure (restaurants, cafes, bookmakers & entertainment) growth also increased by +0.55 per cent in H1 2017 compared to +0.06 per cent in H1 2016. In H1 2017 there was a net increase of +475 units versus a net change of +45 units in H1 2016.
However, sectors in decline include pubs, women’s clothing shops, newsagents and electrical goods.
The North West showed the greatest increase of independent stores at +230 units (+0.71 per cent) in H1 2017, versus +14 units (+0.05 per cent) in H1 2016. Meanwhile, the East of England and the South West showed the greatest decline of independents at -19 units (-0.09 per cent) and -29 units (-0.11 per cent) respectively.
“The first half of 2017 has seen remarkable growth in the opening of independent shops and food and beverage outlets across Great Britain, with a net increase of +762 new trading stores. This is significant in what is a challenging environment and where many chain retailers are closing stores.
Of note is the 10 per cent reduction in overall activity (openings and closures) as this reflects increasing uncertainty in the market or where opportunities to invest are reducing,” says Matthew Hopkinson, director at Local Data Company.
“As the numbers show, independents are an increasingly important stakeholder in every town centre up and down the country and therefore an understanding of how they are performing is key. 65 per cent of all the retail and leisure units across Great Britain are independents and this number has increased in recent years. The internet, customisation and providing a personal service is something that will fuel the openings of independents on our high streets. History, however, tells us that independents also have the propensity to change rapidly from growth to decline due to the marginal nature of some businesses, shorter lease lengths and wider impacts of changes to the costs funding. For now, it is a good news story and one that we should celebrate and support,” he says.