Posted: Thu 4th May 2017
More traditional independent retailers opened than closed in 2016, new research reveals.
Analysis of the UK's top 500 town centres by Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) showed 14,621 indies opened last year compared to 14,462 that closed, a net increase of 159.
In comparison big chain retailers saw a continued decline with a net loss of 896 shops, up from -498 in 2015.
Key growth sectors were barbers, hair and beauty salons, tobacconists and e-cigarette shops, restaurant and bars, and mobile phones shops, while newsagents, women's clothing stores, Indian restaurants and night clubs were the top store types that closed across Britain.
The East Midlands is the region that's home to the greatest increase in independents with a net increase in 87 units, while Greater London saw the biggest decline with -154 stores.
Glastonbury is the town with the highest percentage of independents at 85.6%, while Salford is the town with the lowest at 18.1%. The British average is 65%, the same as in 2015.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC, said:
"Independents are becoming ever more important to our high streets. Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases.
"Not all towns, or even regions, are benefiting from that growth, though.
"The East, South East and South West of England saw a fall in the numbers of independents in 2016. None, though, saw as big a fall as Greater London, with its rising rents. That challenge is to be amplified over the next five years by rising rates bills as well."
Alan Hawkins, CEO at bira, added:
"Given that there are over 100,000 independents in the top 500 towns, this is news to celebrate, as is that 65% of all retail and leisure outlets are independents.
"The fact that net growth is still in the low hundreds means no let-up in our effort to convince government that support is needed. Without them it would be a much emptier exchequer.
"The next few LDC surveys will make interesting reading as the government has failed to deliver the fundamental rates reform we were looking for and we expect some economic realities to hit home."
Last week the government confirmed £300m in business rates relief funding for the companies hardest hit by the controversial business rates revaluation.