Indies boosting store openings but market slows

Independent retailers continue to see growth in store openings, while the market as a whole shows signs of a slowdown, according to the London Data Company.

The LDC Dynamic Location Intelligence Bulletin showed that over the past eight months independents had bumped up store numbers by more than 2,000.

Overall, there has been seven months of net growth in shop numbers, but activity levels had dropped back to mid-2016 figures.

The net gain for April was the lowest for more than half a year.

LDC also suggested that a slowing retail economy made it more likely that the improvement in vacancy since 2012 could come to halt, and even begin to worsen.

‘Comparison’ shops were still opening, but are consistently outweighed by closures. Over the past five years, numbers had dropped by nearly 10,000 in total.

Town centres, shopping centres and retail parks only just saw growth, with April seeing the equivalent of around one new town retail park opening.

Multiples, particularly comparison goods stores, are back on a general reduction path, although the past six months have seen some positive results.

Retail vacancy, which includes comparison, convenience and service stores, in April stayed at the post-2012 low of 12 per cent that it reached in March.

The ‘all vacancy’ rate stayed at 10.9 per cent for the third month in a row.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “Contrary to popular belief, the high street is alive and well, but with such a large number of high streets that LDC tracks, the variance in performance can be significant. There continues to be good news in terms of net growth in shop numbers. Of note is that, contrary to positive signs in a number of the measures, one – leisure vacancy – is increasing.

“It takes some time for day-to-day consumer spending to affect shop numbers and the figures for cash spent within retail have been quite strong. But official statistics for sales volumes suggest that the balance between inflation and earnings growth may cause clouds to appear on the horizon and thus, further stress for retailers and leisure operators where marginal businesses could be forced to close and thus drive up the vacancy rates.”