UK’s independent shops record first rise in four years as chains suffer

Independent retailers and food outlets are stepping into the gaps left by chain stores on the UK’s high streets, retail parks and in shopping centres, driving the first rise in their numbers in four years.

A net total of 804 locally run convenience stores, barbers, bakers, cafes and fast-food joints opened in the first half of 2021, according to the latest review of the market by analysts at the Local Data Company (LDC).

The number contrasts with a net 5,251 chain stores, hospitality and leisure businesses that closed down during the period, as more small business owners ventured into the nation’s shopping districts.

LDC said independents had benefited from government support measures, such as business rates relief, which had enabled them to remain open and capitalise on cheaper rent deals from landlords as their bigger rivals stumbled.

About half the Topshop stores relet since the fashion chain exited the high street earlier this year have gone to independent operators, per esempio. tuttavia, 90% of Topshop’s stores remain empty.

Lucy Stainton, LDC’s commercial director, said local operators were also benefiting from the appetite for takeaways and convenience stores while shoppers were “increasingly concerned with the provenance of products, sustainability and supporting local businesses”.

While more stores are likely to become vacant, according to the LDC’s latest report published on Thursday, the pace of closures appeared to have peaked. A total of 10,549 more stores are expected to become vacant by the end of this year compared with 11,319 l'anno scorso.

“For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, there may be some cause for optimism when it comes to the performance of our high streets. The latest LDC figures show a slowdown in the speed of decline, with store losses far more significant in the first half of 2020 when compared to 2021,” Stainton said.

A best case for 2022 could see occupiers gaining more confidence to open stores as shop units no longer fit for purpose are converted or redeveloped to other uses.

tuttavia, the report sounded a note of caution that the “true extent of the pandemic” may not be felt until the moratorium on evictions from commercial premises lifts in March next year.

In recent months, fashion retailer Gap has said it plans to close all physical UK stores by the end of September to focus on selling online and LDC said more retailers could follow suit if the return to the high street was not as strong as hoped.

“The market is not out of the woods yet,” the report says.

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