21 Jan 2019

Retailing still is attracting new entrants despite the new pressures

SOME 15,340 INDEPENDENT shops were opened across Great Britain in the first half of 2018, but the overall number operating fell by 1,554 because 16,894 pulled down the shutters.

The ongoing volatility in the sector is revealed by the latest research from The Local Data Company (LDC) and Bira. It also showed that multiple retailers continue to close units. In the first half of 2018 the multiples had a net loss of -2,848 shops (-1.36%), which compares to -659 shops (-0.33%) in H1 2017.

With 32,234 changes, independent activity actually rose in H1 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 when 28,076 opened (14,419) or closed (13,657). In 2018, Service retail (which covers barbers, hairdressers and tattoo parlours) was the only retail category to see growth, with a net increase of +104.

Most Bira members fall into the LDC’s Comparison goods (non-perishable goods) category. Here the net change in the number of shops was -1.63% (-0.74% in H1 2017), representing a net decrease of -1,394 units, much more than the -596 in H1 2017.

The sectors in decline include women’s clothing and fashion shops, estate agents and newsagents.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira CEO, said: “This report perfectly illustrates the problems for independent retail businesses. Despite more businesses opening, we have seen more closing resulting in a net loss from the high street. Bira have been saying for a long time that independent retailers need support from local and national governments. The recent budget announcements regarding a rates reduction and the setting up of a high street fund are very welcome and we hope it is not too late to provide a lifeline to these important businesses.”

Most growth has been with barbers, beauty salons, tobacconists/e-cigarette shops, and mobile phone shops. Vegan restaurants (+32%) and vaping/tobacconists (+6.7%) have increased the most as a percentage of their total units.

Leisure units, such as restaurants, cafes, bookmakers & entertainment, stayed at the same level as in H1 2017. Convenience retail (bakers, butchers, food shops, & supermarkets) saw a net decline of -264 units (-0.86%) in H1 2018 versus an increase of +24 units (+0.08%) in H1 2017.

The North West showed the greatest increase of independents at +84 units (+0.71%) in H1 2018, versus +843 units (+0.71%) in H1 2017. Yorkshire & the Humber and Scotland showed the greatest decline of independents at -494 units (-1.64%) and -276 units (-0.40%) respectively.

Independents account for 65% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain, the same as in H1 2017. Some 310,080 independent businesses were covered in this research.

Top 10 independent openings by type

Retailing still is attracting new entrants despite the new pressures

Table 1. Largest numbers of independent units opened by business type in H1 2018 across GB (Source: LDC)