More independent shops closed than opened in the first six months of the year for the first time since 2012, according to The Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers Association.
While 7,915 independent shops opened in the six months up to July 2015, 8,059 closed – a net loss of 144 independent shops in the first half of 2015. For the same period in 2014, there was an increase of 289. While independents still make up 65 per cent of all shops in Britain, it marked a drop of one per cent from 2014.
Last year 8,544 shops opened with 8,255 closing down.
Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: “The loss of 144 shops is not a lot in the context of the 279,569 total across Britain, but is disastrous in comparison to a gain of over 3,600 in 2011. The good times are no longer rolling.”
Many have pointed to business rates as an area the government could have revamped to help ease the pressure on independent retailers. While George Osborne recently unveiled new measures here, with councils now permitted to keep the proceeds from business rates raised in their area and the power to raise or cut the rate, many smaller businesses had been hoping they would be lowered.
Moji Rezvani, owner of Scorpion Shoes, a footwear store in Camden, said the government needed to tackle business rates and reduce costs in order to stem the tide of physical stores moving online.
“Otherwise, retail will be dead. It is the toughest market for independents to survive in,” Rezvani warned. “And the high street would be a very boring place to be without the independents – just full of chains.”
The new figures indicated it wasn’t just independent shops that were struggling though. Chain retailers lost 437 shops in the first half of the year, more than double the net loss of 203 last year.
Those notably in decline were convenience retailers – including butchers, supermarkets and bakers. Where there had been an increase of 76 units in 2014, for this year it was a net decline of 36.
Service retailers, including beauty and tattoo parlours and estate agents increased by the most, up 241 shops for the first half of 2015.
According to the Local Data Company, those seeing the fastest rate of openings were tobacconists, American-style restaurants and mobile phone accessory shops.
Those with the highest percentage of net declines included discount stores, confectioners, booksellers and women’s clothing stores.
The top five places with the highest concentration of independent shops:
(1) Portobello Road, London – 94.8 per cent
(2) Goodmayes, Ilford – 93.5 per cent
(3) Conwy, Wales – 92.5 per cent
(4) Barry, Wales – 91.4 per cent
(5) Old Bexley, London – 91.4 per cent
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