Posted: Tue 1st Nov 2016
More independent shops opened than closed down in the first half of 2016 in Britain's town centres, while national chains saw a fall, according to new figures which also reveal the areas in the UK which are home to the most independent retailers.
The data from the Local Data Company and the British Independent Retailers Association shows that indies saw a increase of +4 shops, a reversal from the net decline of 194 shops during the same period last year. A net growth of 200 units was one of the main drivers in growth.
A total of 31,216 independent retailers either opened (15,610) or closed (15,606). In 2015 the figures were 16,534 and 16,728 respectively.
In contrast, chain retailers declined by 1.02% in the first six months of 2016, compared to 0.44% in 2015.
Key growth sectors among independent stores were barbers, tobacconists/e-cigarette shops, and hair and beauty salons, while pubs, women's clothing shops, newsagents and Indian restaurants declined.
The West Midlands was home to the greatest increase of independents, while high rents and other factors contributed to Greater London seeing the biggest fall.
Based on areas with more than 50 shops, Sparkhill in Birmingham claimed the accolade of having the highest percentage of independent stores at 95%, while Telford in Shropshire had the least with 18.1%. The UK average for proportion of independent shops was 65%.
Top 10 independent business openings by classification mix
Top 10 independent business closures by classification mix
Top 10 independent towns (50+ units)
Bottom 10 independent towns (50+ units)
Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: "It is encouraging to see a reversal in fortunes of independent shops from a year ago with positive change, allbeit minute, yielding a net gain of just four shops across the country! Independents are an sensitive barometer of business confidence and thus their fortunes are worth tracking closely.
" Of note is that the increases come from within the convenience sector and specialist food retailing in particular along with the continued growth of health and beauty outlets for both men and women. The good news is not limited to just one subsector.
"Contrary to popular belief the high street is alive and well with independents and H1 2016 saw a tenfold increase in net openings from a year ago. This sector continues to provide a key element of stability to our towns in particular.
Alan Hawkins, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association, added: "It's encouraging to see a growing vigour in independent retailers across the UK. It's becoming increasingly clear that the customer both needs and wants to be present when shopping for some items, as well as having online options, and that this will hopefully have a positive impact on independent shops.
"I am worried about the Greater London region, which has seen the worst regional fall in openings in the first half of 2016, coupled with the recent news about higher business rate hits and rental values increasing. It is certainly a tough time for independent retailers in Greater London as well as some other parts of the country.
"These results do however, give us a few good examples of how independent retailers are thriving. Particularly in the West Midlands region which is a growing industrial powerhouse where people have more money to spend which in turn is resulting in more independent shops thriving."