2017 could see more indie retail stores opening than closing

2017 is already shaping up to be a good year for independent retailers, with more shops opening than closing in the first three months, according to the British Independent Retailers Association.

New data from the British Independent Retailers Association suggests more independent retail shops are opening than closing down in the first quarter of 2017 (Image: Shutterstock)
New data from the British Independent Retailers Association suggests more independent retailers are opening than closing down in the first quarter of 2017 (Image: Shutterstock)

The retail sector could be strengthening in 2017 after years of decline, with new data indicating  that more independent retail shops opened than closed in the first quarter of 2017.

According to the  British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), there was an increase of 414 indie shops in the first three months of 2017, or around four new stores per day, while national chains continued to decline.

This figure is compared to a net increase of just four shops in the first half of 2016  and a decline of 194 shops in the first half of 2015.

Other recent Bira data shows a net increase of 159 stores in 2016 overall, with  14,621 independent retail stores opening compared to  14,462 closing down.

This equates to a 36 per cent increase from 2015, where 117 independent retail shops were added across the UK.

The figures have been cautiously welcomed by experts, considering the UK’s  political uncertainty and inflation impacting consumer confidence, coupled with the rising business rates.

READ MORE:  Fashion retailers now outweighed by leisure outlets, cafes on the high street

Bira chief executive Alan Hawkins said: “One of the biggest challenges for retailers is attracting customers in the changing retail environment.

“Traditional retailers are under pressure and access to the technology that enables them to reduce costs, open new outlets or pop-ups, and easily offer ecommerce options can really stimulate growth.

“While our data for the first quarter of this year is still a way off the 11 store openings a week we saw in 2010, it is certainly a big step in the right direction for the sector.”

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, which partnered with Bira for the research, said independent  retailers were becoming more important to high streets.

“Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases,” he said.

“They are changing the face of our towns as well, as barbers and bars replace clothing shops and newsagents, with service and leisure gradually substituting for comparison shops.”

He added: “The high levels of openings and closures among independents must be seen as a sign of continued buoyancy in our towns.

“But there is no room for complacency – with a gain on balance of just 159 shops on the back of more than 29,000 openings in 2016, it would take very little for net gains to become net losses.”

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  1. I can believe this, my local town is gradually turning into one big coffee shop, with four coffee shops in one tiny space! I wonder if everyone sits round all day drinking coffee here.

    It would be lovely to see a rise of independents over chains on the high street, but I suspect the real story here is that the independents are starting to be able to afford rent that has been reduced because the large chains are all shutting down and not occupying the spaces – and yet when the small independents occupy the space (hence the high turn over of changing owners) they also find they can’t sell enough there either.

    Essentially, in the future there is likely to be very few shops on the high street full stop, it’s all going online bit by bit. Will we miss it all I wonder when all we have is online shopping left.


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