Indie retailers optimistic about their local high street’s future

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// 74% of independent retailers across the UK are optimistic about the future of their local high street; up from 52% last year
// 34% say they plan to open another store on the high street in the next year, while 30% look to hire more staff
// 34% of consumers continue to prefer their high street to online shopping (21%)
// The research from Visa coincides with launch of the government-run Great British High Street Awards 2019

Almost three quarters of independent retailers across the UK are optimistic about the future of their local high street, according to new data.

The research, launched alongside the government-run Great British High Street
Awards 2019 in partnership with Visa, indicates that confidence in local high streets has surged among small retailers, with 74 per cent of those surveyed feeling optimistic about the future – up from 52 per cent 12 months ago.

Visa’s research also shows that 34,511 independent high street shops opened for business last year, up 4.5 per cent on 2017.

Meanwhile, the high street is the favoured destination for retailers to expand their business, with 34 per cent of those surveyed planning on opening another high street store in the next 12 months, while 30 per cent intend to employ more staff.

Despite recent high-profile collapses and CVAs in the UK retail industry, things are looking up for consumers with 25 per cent saying the high street plays a vital role in a town or city’s make-up.

Visa found that 34 per cent of consumers continue to prefer their high street to online shopping, beating shopping centres and online at 31 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

When asked what they wanted to see more of, 41 per cent of consumers said they preferred fashion retailers, while 31 per cent said they preferred bookstores.

“Our research shows that there is plenty to celebrate on our high streets, and we’re very encouraged to see independent shops playing such an important role in this,” Visa UK regional managing director Jeni Mundy said.

“Through our involvement with the [Great British High Street] Awards, we’ve witnessed the huge strides that high streets are making in transforming themselves, with many adapting to changing consumer demands for new goods and services whilst maintaining their status as a hub for local communities.

“Today’s consumers expect a great deal from their shopping experiences, and it is those high streets demonstrating adaptability, resilience and creativity that are setting themselves up for success.”

Crickhowell High Street – located in a rural town in the Usk Valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in south Wales – was given the top honour at last year’s Great British High Street Awards.

The Great British High Street Awards is run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and aims to recognise and celebrate the local achievements of UK high streets.

At the end of 2018, the government launched the Future High Streets Fund, which comprised £675 million and will see local towns bid for their share.

The funds would be used by local councils across the UK to transform high streets into community hubs, aiming to reduce the reliance on retail amid a challenging period for high street stores.

The launch of the fund was first announced in the October Budget, and followed Sir John Timpson’s High Street Report, which called for more money to be granted to local authorities to rejuvenate their towns.

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