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Growth rate for independents in top 500 town centres halves in first half of 2013

Traditional independent shops are declining at the fastest rate ever with a loss of nearly 200 shops in the first half of this year compared to total loss of just over 200 in the whole of 2012, according to figures released by The Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers Association.


Growth rate for independents in top 500 town centres halves in first half of 2013

In the first half of 2013, the net change in independents was +424 units (0.4%) versus +852 (0.8%) for the same period in 2012. A total of 8,769 independents opened in the period while 8,345 closed. 

While Greater London showed the biggest decline of independents at -61 units (-0.2%), the East Midlands saw the greatest increase in independent stores at +110 units (+1.5%). Wales showed the biggest change in fortunes after reversing a net decline of -3.3% to record positive growth of 3.3% this year.

Key growth sectors were mobile phone shops, barbers, charity shops, beauty salons and coffee shops, but sectors in decline included women’s clothing, newsagents, shoe shops, furniture shops and pound shops. 

Service retail (health & beauty, financial services, pawnbrokers and estate agents) increased by the greatest number of units at +286 (+1% versus 0.6% in 2012). 

However, comparison goods (non perishable goods) shops continued to decline at -0.6% in the first half of the year compared to -0.42% in the same period in 2012. This was a net decrease of -186 units and a significant acceleration from 2012 where the annual net decline was -216 units. 

Growth in convenience retail, which includes bakers, butchers, food shops, and supermarkets accelerated to +1.4% from 0.75% in 2012 to give a net increase of 123 units. 

Leisure (restaurants, cafes, bookmakers & entertainment) uses saw the best growth with +201 units, which is +0.6% versus an overall decline of -29 (-0.1%) for 2012. 

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company said: “A very interesting first half to 2013 for independents. Key ‘storm warning’ changes are the 10% rise in openings and closures over the same period last year and the accelerating decline of comparison goods shops. This is not just about the internet and out of town competition but far wider business cost issues that make many businesses unprofitable. 

“It is interesting to note that it is London and the South East that has seen the greatest loss of independents at nearly 100 yet Wales has gone from a net change in 2012 of -3.3% to +3.3%. The East and West Midlands have also showed positive growth with the remainder showing marginal decline. 

“Independents are a key part of our town centres and as the data shows are undergoing significant change, and whilst just positive at the moment history tells us that they can very quickly go negative thereby releasing more vacant premises into our town centres. A mere 1% decline in independents would result in nearly 30,000 empty premises which would be a 100% increase in the number of town centre vacancies.” 

While East Barnet had the highest percentage of independents at 96.9%, Telford remained as the town with the smallest percentage of independents at 18.8%. 

According to The Local Data Company, independents now account for 66% of all retail and leisure units in the UK. 

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