A study of the UK’s independent shops by Simply Business has revealed that the traditional high street stalwarts of cafes, pubs and takeaways are gradually being replaced by more specialist and boutique outlets such as health food shops, tea rooms, arts & crafts stores, wine bars and old fashioned sweet shops.
The leading business insurance provider analysed over 30,000 independent retail outlets it insures across the UK, revealing that the proportion of pubs is down by 20 per cent in the last year, cafes are down by 11 per cent, sandwich bars are down by 16 per cent and takeaways down by three per cent.
Meanwhile, wine bars are up 13 per cent, tea rooms up nine per cent, traditional sweet shops up by 15 per cent and health food shops increased by a significant 42 per cent - revealing a new-look high street aimed at a more discerning customer. Local butchers and bakeries have also seen a revival, rising 21 and 17 per cent respectively, suggesting shoppers are happy to go to specialist outlets rather than supermarkets for certain purchases.
The high street has been struggling, with latest figures from the British Retail Consortium showing a 5.5 per cent decline on last year’s footfall. However, these findings suggest that retailers have taken heed of the advice from Government’s appointed ‘High Street Tsar’ Mary Portas to ‘create experiences different to the ones consumers can get online or in shopping malls.’
The findings show further evidence that independent retailers are catering to the needs recession-conscious Brits, with a noticeable increase in the number of shops dedicated to ‘make it yourself’ purchases. For example, fabric shops are up 44 per cent, home baking shops by 50 per cent, while art and craft shops have seen a 29 per cent rise in the last year. There is also a trend for vintage and customisable goods, with second hand shops seeing a six per cent rise and charity shops up 27 per cent.
“It is encouraging to see that [the high street is adapting to the new retail landscape], where savvy shoppers have numerous alternatives including online, out of town shopping malls and supermarkets,” comments Jason Stockwood, CEO, Simply Business. “Our findings show that independent retailers are increasingly looking to specialise or offer something different to alternative outlets, tempting shoppers with a more quirky, unique experience.
“We can also see fascinating evidence that while today’s shoppers still like the finer things in life, they are putting effort into making their own treats and also shopping around for bargains. The rise in fabric shops, bakers produce and second hand shops suggests that Brits are becoming more creative and resourceful with how they spend their money.”
There are also some interesting trends indicating regional hot spots for certain independent retailers:
Isabelle Allfrey, 33, started her tea shop, The Tea Rooms, in August 2007:
“When I started my shop, The Tea Rooms, afternoon tea and home baking was just starting to get fashionable but since then it has really taken off and become very popular. I think it is partly due to the recession as people want to treat themselves to small luxuries rather than really expensive items - so rather than going for a posh meal they might have afternoon tea on the local high street. In fact, I’ve noticed that we are busier at the end of the month than straight after pay day! I also hear from customers that they like a more homely environment for their afternoon tea to what’s on offer in big hotels. It is more accessible, relaxed and affordable.
“I've also more recently noticed a trend for people wanting to make their own cakes, our recipe book has become very popular! People are getting creative in lots of other ways too so we now offer cake baking classes, as well as knitting and crocheting workshops as part of an afternoon tea party. Again I think this has been sparked by the recession – it’s all part of the ‘make do and mend’ culture.”
Paul Kennedy, owner of traditional sweet shop, The Sweet Gallery, in Woking, explains his experience:
“I think the recession has brought about a need for diversification of the high street away from cloned town centres. People want to spend their limited resources looking for ‘different’ and sweets are still an affordable luxury that might also, for the mischievous, be seen as a guilty pleasure.
“My customer base is growing steadily. As new customers find us, they come back time after time and tell all their friends and family about us. Our standards of service and our quality, unusual sweets ensure customers don't get bored and want to keep coming back.”
Figures are based on analysis of 31,786 independent retail outlets insured by Simply Business between August 2011 and July 2012.
Sophie Howard / Ben Jenkins
+44 20 7009 3128 / +44 20 7009 814
Launched in 2005, Simply Business provides an online brokerage service, delivering policies tailored to individual business requirements. Using the power of tech and data to create the best possible customer experiences, Simply Business employs over 600 people across offices in London, Northampton, and Boston in the US.
Owing to its internal underwriting capability, Simply Business can cover over 1,000 trade types – ranging from plumbers to accountants to dog walkers. An accredited B Corp for their positive social impact, Simply Business has also been voted the Sunday Times Best Company To Work For twice in a row.
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