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Indies ‘remarkable’ growth

762 more shops open this year with High Street units main drivers as chain stores continue decline


HIGH Streets have seen remarkable growth in independent store openings over the first half of this year according to the Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers’ Association.

The date revealed yesterday, Wednesday, October 11, shows traditional independent shops opened significantly more shops than in the same period last year, while the national chains continued to see a fall.
Independent shops saw their numbers rise by 762 outlets (+0.27 per cent) in H1 2017, a significant rise from the net increase of just four in the year before.
A net increase of 562 High Street units was one of the main drivers in the growth of independent retailing in the first half of this year, significantly up on the 200-store growth in the same period last year.
In the research covering 288,259 independent businesses across Britain, results showed chain retaliers – those with more than five stores nationally – have continued to decline with a net loss of 659 shops, although that is better than the 2,001 which were closed in the first half of 2016.
Matthew Hopkinson, director the technology and knowledge business LDC, said: “The first half of 2017 has seen remarkable growth in the opening of independent shops and food and beverage outlets across Great Britain – 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. 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.
“Sixty five 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.”
Key growth sectors include tobacconists and e-cigarette shops, barbers, cafes and hair and beauty salons, while traditional newsagents and pubs are among the sectors in decline.
In H1 2017 a total of 14,419 independents opened with 13,657 closing, which is 10.1 down on 12 months previous 15,610 opening as closed 15,606 closed.
The north-west showed the greatest increase of independent stores at 230 against 14 last year, while Scotland continues to see a change in fortune with 114 more units, up on the increase of 63 last year, following the net decline of 42 in the first half of 2015.
For the second year running Sparkhill in Birmingham has the accolade of having the highest concentration of independent stores at 95.0 per cent (based on locations with 50+ units) while Telford has the lowest at only 15.5 per cent, against a GB average of 65 per cent.
The other location types saw an overall increase with Shopping Centres seeing the first net increase in two years of 0.67 per cent versus the 0.61 decline in H1 2016, and Retail Parks edging up by 3.41% against a 0.63 per cent increase a year ago.
BIRA CEO Alan Hawkins added: “It’s good to see independents, and the High Street in particular, leading the way in net unit growth for the first half of 2017. The courage and, we hope, skill of the independent entrepreneurial spirit will fly long after the prophets of doom are silent.
“The predictability of the growth areas is perhaps a little disappointing being centered on the areas where the customer has to be present, but let’s not knock that – barbers, nails and a cup of coffee all help footfall and give even the harder-pressed comparison goods shops a chance to wave their retail magic.”

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