Independents ‘weathering storm better than multiples’

Independents are faring much better than multiples in the current tough economic times, and are capable of regenerating the UK’s beleaguered high streets.

Independents 'weathering storm better than multiples'

So said the British Independent Retailers Association yesterday as it released the findings of new quantitative research undertaken with the Local Data Company.

“Town centres are suffering both natural and manmade damage, but independents are weathering the storm and are showing signs of a naturally regenerative ability that can revive the high streets of the country,” BIRA said.

It revealed that while closures of independent shops still outnumber openings, the gap has narrowed dramatically and openings promise to overtake closures if the trends of the last three years continue.

However, BIRA added that independents have to be freed from such pressures as town centre parking restrictions and rising property costs.

Commenting on the latest analysis, LDC’s Matthew Hopkinson said: “The interesting fact is that in general terms independents have weathered this storm much better than the multiples, many of whom have left the high street for shopping centres or retail parks, or indeed downsized dramatically or, worse still, failed.

“By taking just a few – Woolworths, Zavvi, Focus DIY and Oddbins – you are into thousands of stores with just a few fascias. Whilst the independents have been impacted by closures they have also shown a greater propensity to reinvent themselves and reappear, albeit at a lower number.

“Most importantly the closure rate of independents has significantly reduced over the past two years, and 2011 has started well.”

Hopkinson also outlined some of the problems that high street independents have had to contend with over the last 10 years.

“The main factors have been the significant growth of out-of-town retail, up 36%, but also at a rate much greater than that of in-town, up 13%. Supermarkets’ share of sales rising from 35% to 43% along with a growth of 14% in non-food sales. Only last month Sainsbury’s announced that it is aiming for 45% of its sales to come from non-food retailing,” he said.

“The internet has grown to be 10% of retail sales and is forecast to be as much as 35% by 2020. Added to this we have seen business rates, rents rise, commodity prices and utility costs all rise.”

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