High Streets Initiative · 7 March 2018

Independent stores hailed as high street saviours amid big-name causalities

Independent stores, like this Shoreditch bookshop, have shown resilience in times of adversity

Independent stores have been hailed as the “saviours” of the British high street amidst the recent closures of big-name chains.

Research from marketplace OnBuy.com has revealed that there was “extraordinary growth” in the number of independent stores being launched last year throughout the UK.

The North West saw 230 independent stores open their doors, with 194 in the West Midlands and 114 in Scotland.

Only the East of England with 19 independent closures and the South West with 29 stores shutting up shop bucked the positive trend.

In contrast multiple store closures – defined as brands with more than five stores nationally – were seen in every region except Yorkshire and the Humber.

West Midlands, Greater London and East of England have seen the most multiple store closures down 143, 92 and 86 respectively.

Those numbers are expected to worsen this year with high profile high street casualties such as electronics chain Maplin and Toys R Us.

Other retailers such as fashion chain New Look, which today revealed plans to reduce its UK store estate by 60 stores out of its total of 593 stores, with the potential loss of 980 jobs, have also suffered.

“As retail chains close at a rapid pace, we look to independent stores as saviours,” said Cas Paton, managing director of Onbuy.com.

“Often, independent goods have an unrivalled quality and the service is intimate, offering a retail experience that is memorable and tailored to the customer. It is sad to see well-loved, British companies closing but we must move with the times.”

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Paton added: “Keen business men and women have their eye on vacant spaces across the country and we must support our local independents, bricks-and-mortar businesses. It’s the only way for retail to survive.”

The research found that public houses and inns, newsagents and bookmakers were among the most at risk of closure.

It also discovered that the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber have the highest vacancy rates for new stores. The East of England, South East and Greater London have the lowest rates.

“In the grand scheme of things, vacancy rates are low,” Paton noted.

“The fact that only three regions have seen an increase in vacancies is positive and we must focus on this. Otherwise, we risk consistent, unobliging news of multiple closures obscuring our vision and progress to develop the retail world.”

Our “Bricks and Clicks” video series takes a look at the retailers merging online and offline tactics for high street success.

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