Success is brewing for independent coffee shops, American Express and GlobalData find

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Independent coffee shops are in the black according to research by the American Express Shop Small campaign, which reveals the category is set to grow faster than ever in coming years. Almost 500 new independent coffee bars opened their doors on high streets across the UK between 2012 and 2017 (a net increase of 9%)– making it the fastest-growing category in food and drink over the period.

According to forecasting by retail experts GlobalData, the boom is far from over and UK high streets are poised to experience an even bigger caffeine boost in the years still to come. The nation is predicted to see a further 780 new independent coffee bars open by 2023 as the overall number will increase by another 13% on today’s levels. That would mean that the UK will be home to 6,604 independent coffee shops by 2023 – up from 5,337 in 2012 and 5,826 in 2017.

The trend is in part being driven by millennial consumers, who are turning to coffee shops as their preferred social meeting spaces. The research shows that almost two thirds (65%) of millennials agree that cafes and coffee shops are their favourite places to socialise with their friends.

This trend has had a big impact on consumer spending patterns, as research has found that UK consumers spend £9.6 billion annually on coffee alone.

Maureen Hinton, global retail research director at GlobalData, said: “While the big coffee shop groups have grown substantially, opportunities persist for independents, who have carved out a niche for themselves and continue to thrive. Coffee shops have been one of the fastest growing categories in independent retail and are set to maintain a leading role. The fact that they are increasingly seen as a social destination by younger consumers – who are also attracted by the wider food range on offer – means we anticipate there will be a further increase in the rate of growth in the coming five years.”

The research comes ahead of Small Business Saturday, of which American Express is the founder and principal supporter. Taking place on 1 December 2018, thousands of retailers, dozens of local councils and business groups will encourage the nation to shop small ahead of the festive season.

Caroline Bouvet, VP, American Express, comments: “The nation’s high streets have long been the backbone of their local communities, and the growth in cafes and coffee shops in particular are providing new hubs where consumers can socialise as well as eat and drink. We hope the nation will show their appreciation for their local coffee shops and the other independents that play such a vital role in our local communities by shopping small on Small Business Saturday and beyond.”

American Express and GlobalData examined trends in openings from 2017-2023 and ran research amongst 2,250 consumers to understand current attitudes and behaviours to develop a forecast that paints a positive outlook for the sector.