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Could the rise of independent retailers save our high streets?

2-minute read

Mark James

20 February 2015

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Stats from our High Street tracker suggest an independent retailer renaissance*.

Indy retailers

For the past five years we’ve been tracking the realities of life on Britain’s high streets, our research reflecting the rise and fall of dozens of businesses across the UK. We’ve seen tattoo parlours coming back into fashion and watched as foodies reclaim the high street from big brands and bookies.

In contrast to the retail doom and gloom stories you might traditionally read in the press, our findings have provided plenty of reasons to view UK retail more positively. The number of independent retailers has soared year upon year according to our latest research, a rise of 110% evident over the last five years. Far from shutting up shop independent retailers appear to be opening them.

Leading the way in this upsurge of independents are retailers in the North West, with this region experiencing an 89% rise here over the last five years. In 2014 we saw much made of the increasing North/South divide, but in retail, at least, the North appears to be closing the gap. Looking at the stats we appear to be witnessing a UK-wide independent retailer fight back.

And it’s not just us throwing up figures like this – similar studies have suggested the same – independent retailers on the rise, and arguably, saving our high streets.

As bigger chains shun our town centres, independents appear to be returning, and giving our high streets the shot in the arm that they so desperately needed. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham, where in the past four years around 80 shops have reopened in place of abandoned units.

Fuelled in part by the Portas Pilot Initiative and the High Street Renewal Fund, the town’s seen a huge influx of independent shops and creative popups. Projects like the Makers Emporium have increased retail opportunities, illustrating what a little shrewd investment into independent stores can do for our towns and cities.

As the success of Rotherham and our study reflects there’s still life in our high streets yet – all they need is some backing to get them on the right track. Fuel the rise of independent retailers and surely our towns and cities will get stronger too, Osborne’s recent commitment to cut business rates surely a step in the direction.

‘I’m sick of seeing lovely old pubs and other small family-run businesses turning into Tesco locals’, stated our billboard winner Rebecca Amissah back in January, echoing the sentiments of thousands, if not millions concerned about the future of their high streets. Perhaps they needn’t be so worried, as it looks like the independents are fighting back…

*Figures are based on analysis of insurance policy data from independent retail outlets insured by Simply Business between 2010 and 2014. This includes 69,085 businesses in 2014.

What do you make of our recent research? Share your views in the comments below!

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