Independent shop openings at six-year low

The number of independent shops opening in the UK dropped to one a week last year, down from 11 a day six years ago.

This is according to the latest figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association.

The data showed that in 2015, independents opened the fewest shops in Britain’s top 500 town centres since LDC records began in 2009. Independent shops saw an increase of just 117 shops (0.11 per cent) in 2015 compared with a peak of growth of 4.01 per cent (3,949 shops) in 2010.

In 2015, a total of 68,100 independents either opened (34,288) or closed (33,812), which was down on 2014, when 69,207 opened (34,833) or closed (34,324).

The Yorkshire and the Humber region showed the greatest increase of independents at 189 (0.81 per cent) in 2015, compared with 183 (0.82 per cent) in 2014.

Greater London continued to show the biggest decline in independents – 347 (down 0.51 per cent compared with 0.34 per cent in 2014).

Analysis of town centres, shopping centres and retail parks showed that chain retailers have continued to decline, with a net loss of 1,147 shops (59 per cent) in 2015, compared with 1,436 shops (0.76 per cent) in 2010.

Said Matthew Hopkinson, director of the LDC: “Independents are a key component of our high streets and this is seen both in the fact they represent a majority (65 per cent) of the units, but also the diversity and vibrancy they can bring, along with their direct connection to local economies.

“While the numbers remain positive, the dramatic decline in the growth of independents from 11 openings a day to just one a week reflects the challenges many independent businesses face.

“A number of factors are at play, but one of the major factors has been the move of many ‘high street’ anchor retailers such as Next, M&S and River Island moving from high street shops to out-of-town retail parks. These moves result in lower footfall volumes as people follow them out of town, which has a big impact for the smaller retailers left behind.”

He added: “2016 will be a pivotal year for independent births and deaths, as history tells us that the ability to go from a large number of openings (5,615 in the first half of 2010) to a large number of closures (1,666 in the second half of 2010) in a short time is entirely possible. Only time will tell.”