Three times as many independent run retail stores opened on UK high streets in 2011 compared to outlets opened by large multiples, new statistics released today show.
Following on from its most recent report into shop vacancy rates last month, the Local Data Company has now revealed that while the number of multiple retailers in the top 500 town centres in the country shrank by 0.25 per cent last year, the number of independents actually grew 2.4 per cent.
Independents now represent 66 per cent of all of the retail and leisure units in Britain, an increase of one per cent compared to 12 months ago, with most new openings come in fashion, off-licences and nail bars.
The level of churn last year was very high however with 12,669 independents closing to be replaced by 15,233 new ones, showing both the difficult trading environment on the UK’s high street at present and the high number of entrepreneurs who are nevertheless willing to try their luck in the market.
Matthew Hopkinson, Director at the Local Data Company, said: “This report shows how significant independents are to the future of our High Streets particularly now as chain stores reduce their numbers.
“It also challenges the common view that independents are an endangered species being killed off by supermarkets and the internet. In many towns they are the mainstay and are at the forefront of the move for communities to keep spend local in their economy by supporting the local independent businesses.”
East England showed the greatest increase in independents during the year, up 4.23 per cent, while London, the south east of England & Scotland had the weakest growth at under two per cent each.
Of all the UK town centres surveyed Bury Park in Luton had the highest percentage of independents, 84.8 per cent, but demonstrating the vast differences in high streets across the country, the town at the bottom of the list is Telford with only 22 per cent of its shops not owned by multiples.
A catalyst for the growth in independents is the increasing demand for convenience, with the rise in independent bakers, butchers, newsagents, grocers, and off-licences all in double digits and all outstripping their multiple equivalents.
Richard Hayhoe, Marketing Director at wholesaler Palmer & Harvey, commented: “The independent convenience sector is performing well due to a number of factors; people are shopping little and often as they eke out funds until pay day. As fuel goes up people shop much closer to home, not wanting to use their car when they could nip around the corner.
“Changing demographics have meant that there are rising numbers of single households and working parents and these, coupled with the UK’s long hours culture, all fuel the convenience sector.“