// A net total of 804 locally run retailers opened in first half of the year
// Local Data Company said independents had benefited from government support measures
New data has revealed that the independent store market returned to growth in the first half of 2021 for the first time since 2017.
A net total of 804 locally run convenience stores, barbers, bakers, cafes and fast-food joints opened in the first half of 2021, according to the latest review of the market by analysts at the Local Data Company (LDC).
LDC said independents had benefited from government support measures, such as business rates relief and furlough schemes which had enabled them to remain open and capitalise on cheaper rent deals from landlords as their bigger rivals stumbled.
However, it warned that the market could see closures increase when support ends next year.
Growth was mainly driven by food retailers such as convenience stores, grocers and takeaway and cafe operators.
In contrast, there was a significant reduction in the number of chain store units which saw a net loss of 5,251 in the six-month period.
This was an improvement on the figure for the first half of 2020, but still significantly higher than pre-pandemic losses.
As a result of the reduction in multiples, independent occupiers have had access to an increased volume of vacant units, often with attractive deals from landlords including rent-free periods and capital expenditure contributions to encourage take-up of empty units.
Local Data Company commercial director Lucy Stainton said: “Independent operators are also benefiting from the volume of available units, many of which come with attractive deals from a new market of shopping centre landlords who are now looking to the independent sector to fill the significant number of stores being vacated by chains.”
“For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, there may be some cause for optimism when it comes to the performance of our high streets.
“The latest LDC figures show a slowdown in the speed of decline, with store losses far more significant in the first half of 2020 when compared to 2021.”