Independent shops on the up as large chains continue high street retreat

Study shows more independent retailers open in 2014 than at any time since 2011

Independent shops are capitalising on the decline of UK high-street chains, according to a study which showed the number of independents is at its highest level in four years.

Data released today by the Local Data Company in conjunction with the British Independent Retailers Association showed that there was a net increase of 432 new independent stores in the first half of 2014, marking a 0.41% increase in the business population and the highest overall figure since 2011.

Independents now account for 66% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain as a whole.

Broken down by sector, e-cigarette products’ rise in popularity amongst consumers was marked by a large increase in the number of independent tobacconists, which increased by 119 stores – a net change of 78.29%.

Barbers, beauty salons and mobile phone businesses also saw high net changes in the number of shops, but non-perishable goods retailers such as clothes and shoe shops mostly saw a marked decline.

The study’s authors said the figures ran contrary to the “popular belief” that the UK high-street is on the decline as a whole, with independents capitalising on the struggles of many retail chain mainstays in recent years.

Regionally, the South West continued to show the greatest increase of independents with a net increase of 102 units, whilst Greater London showed the greatest decline with a net decrease of 59 units.

Caledonian Road in north London had the highest percentage of independents at 89%, whilst Salford had the lowest figure with just 24.4% of its shops classified as independent.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “The growth in independents, the ‘silent majority’, is a significant factor in preventing vacancy rates rising in our town centres and also reflects the consumer response to a more personal and unique offer that many independents bring.

“The danger, however, is that the volume of openings and closures of independents versus chains is 300% greater resulting in a less stable high street and one prone to broad swings in performance based on business type and location.”

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