Study finds fall in growth of independent shops on high street


British high streets have seen a sharp decline in the growth of independent shops following a rise in out-of-town shopping centres, according to research. 

The number of new independent stores has fallen from 11 a day in 2010 to one a week in 2015, a report by the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has found. 

The study revealed independent shops only increased by 0.11% - or 117 shops - in 2015, compared to 4% or 3,949 shops in 2010. 

Barbers, cafes and tearooms and tobacconists saw the biggest growth in independent retail, with hair and beauty salons and restaurants and bars also making the top five. 

Tobacconists and e-cigarette stores grew 54% while American-themed restaurants climbed 36%.

But women's clothes shops, pubs, newsagents and Indian restaurants saw the highest number of business closures, the report said. 

It also found chain retailers narrowed their declines despite posting hefty falls, with a net loss of 1,147 shops or minus 0.59% in 2015, compared to minus 1,436 shops or minus 0.76% in 2014.

The report comes after latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed retail sales fared better than expected in February, despite the cold and wet weather deterring shoppers from hitting the new spring and summer clothes collections.

The ONS said the quantity bought in the retail industry decreased by 0.4% on January while year-on-year sales registered a 3.8% increase.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said independent retailers still represent 65% of all units but faced mounting challenges on the high street. 

He added: "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 the high street shop 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."

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the BIRA, said figures showed a "powerful rebalancing" away from product-based retail towards service, leisure and convenience retailers.