“Service retail” the big winner as independent shop opening to closure rate stablises

Though the cycling market continues to see a worrying number of closures new figures from the Local Data Company reveals that independents are holding ground, while national chains show signs of weakening.

Today’s data release isn’t cycle market specific, but does flag “service retail” as the biggest winner, up by 587 unit openings, a 1.92% increase year-on-year. Thankfully, bicycle retailers don’t feature in the Top 10 independent business closure types, a category led by newsagents, night clubs and women’s clothes stores.

When it comes to chains the net decline is substantial. Some 896 closed in 2016, a significant acceleration on 2015’s 498.

The data is broken down by region, so there are fluctuations. Greater London, for example, continues to churn out the greatest closure rate when it comes to independents, down 0.48%, a slightly slower rate than 2015’s 0.65%.

The East Midlands showed the greatest increase of independents at +87 units (+1.19%) in 2016, versus +17 units (+0.23%) in 2015.

Meanwhile, Scotland continues to show green shoot growth with 130 units opening.

Matthew Hopkinson, Director at the Local Data Company commented:

“Independents are becoming ever more important to our High Streets. Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases. They are changing the face of our towns as well, as Barbers and Bars replace Clothing shops and Newsagents, with Service and Leisure gradually substituting for Comparison shops.

Not all towns, or even regions, are benefiting from that growth, though. The East, South East and South West of England saw a fall in the numbers of independents in 2016. None, though, saw as big a fall as Greater London, with its rising rents. That challenge is to be amplified over the next five years by rising rates bills as well.”

He added: “The high levels of openings and closures among independents must be seen as a sign of continued buoyancy in our towns. But there is no room for complacency – with a gain on balance of just 159 shops on the back of more than 29,000 openings in 2016, it would take very little for net gains to become net losses.”

Other headline data from the LDC includes:

  • In 2016, the net change in independents was +159 units (+0.15%) versus +117 (+0.11%) in 2015.
  • In 2016, a total of 29,083 independents either opened (14,621) or closed (14,462), down on 2015 where 29,936 shops opened (15,026) or closed (14,910).
  • Wider analysis of in and out of town locations shows that High Streets saw an improvement from a net increase of +119 units, to a net increase of +167 units in 2016. This represented a +40.3% increase year on year.
  • Independents account for 65% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain, the same as in 2015.