LDC unveils more independent openings in H1 2014

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Data presented by The Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association shows that traditional independent shops and leisure outlets continue to increase in Britain’s town centres, while the chains continue to retreat.

Independent high street businesses have continued to grow every year since 2009, albeit in smaller numbers as the years have passed. In 2010 the net change (openings less closures) in stores grew by 4% and in 2014 this growth reduced to 0.37%. However, comparison goods (non-perishable goods) retailers, which includes electrical retailers, have shown consistent decline since 2012 with a net loss of over 600 (-2%) comparison goods shops.

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LDC director Matthew Hopkinson commented: “Today’s data on independents and last week’s data on the chains shows an increasing diversion in direction of travel with regards occupation of shops in town centres. Independents continue to remain positive, albeit at a reduced level from their peak in 2010, while the chains continue to reduce store numbers and are showing a significant increased closure rate which is heading in the direction of the year of peak closures, 2012, where closures resulted in a net decline of 3%.

“The growth in independents, the ‘silent majority’, is a significant factor in preventing vacancy rates rising in our town centres and also reflects the consumer response to a more personal and unique offer that many independents bring. The danger, however, is that the volume of openings and closures of independents versus chains is 300% greater, resulting in a less stable high street and one prone to broad swings in performance based on business type and location.”

British Independent Retailers Association deputy chief executive Michael Weedon added: “The rate of change on the high street continues to increase. Major changes are taking place all the time, with over 8,000 independents closing and just under 9,000 opening in just six months. If that happened in the world of the chains it would be headline news. For the fourth year in a row the overall number of independents has grown, favouring formats which need customers to be in shops, such as food, leisure and services and hitting the “comparison” finished goods sector. The net gain is what’s slowly wearing the overall vacancy rate down but there’s a big warning in this data: the total gain in independents is slowing and if it turns negative overall vacancy will start to rise again. So, entrepreneurs are taking risks and opening new shops – everyone concerned with the future of the high street needs to do everything they can to help those new businesses survive. There’s a general election next year: this is the time for politicians to show the policies that will help nurture this new growth.”

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