Independents opened three times more stores (15,233) than multiples (5,094) in 2011, according to the latest report on the openings and closures of all retail and leisure outlets in the UK’s top 500 town centres from The Local Data Company (LDC).
Last year was also a turbulent year in these town centres, where 12,669 independents shut up shop and the chains closed 5,268 units resulting in total closures of 17,937, said LDC.
The net change (openings less closures) was positive as independent occupied units grew by 2,564 (+2.4%), while multiple units declined by 174 units (-0.25%).
These changes mean independents now account for 66% (+1%) of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain, said LDC.
Comparison goods retailers were hardest hit with the sector as a whole showing minimal growth of 0.45%, said LDC. This growth was solely as a result of the independents growing by 1.2% while the multiples shrank by 0.2%. Key growth areas for the independents included auto and accessories, charity, pet shops, pound shops, fashion and general clothing. However florists and garden, menswear, sports, toys, cycle shops and hobbies showed a decline, it said.
The strongest sectors were within convenience and service retail, where again the independents led the way with a 2.9% increase in the convenience sector and their largest increase – 5% – in the service sector.
In the hotly contested convenience sector it was off-licences that showed a massive increase of nearly 12%, while the multiples shrunk by a whopping 28% primarily off the back of Oddbins closures, said LDC.
The service sector has seen independents grow within the credit union/pay day loan sector but most significantly in the hairdressing and health and beauty sector.
Nail bars, of which 95% are independents, have grown by 16.5% alone. One interesting difference between the independents and multiples, in light of the depressed housing market, is independent estate agents grew by 3.2% whilst the multiples shrank by 1.6%, said LDC.
After the comparison goods retailers, it is the leisure sector that has been the second weakest performer with a small increase of 1.3%.
Yet again though the growth is being led by the independents at +1.7%, while the multiples show a tiny improvement of 0.1%.
Within this sector it has been bars, pubs and clubs who have been hardest hit be it the independents or the multiples.
Restaurants, cafes and fast food are where the independents have really made their mark with an increase of 2.2%, while the multiples showed no change.
This could be a result of the multiples having already saturated these top 500 town centres and the likes of McDonald’s, KFC and others looking to expand to edge or out of town where they can pick up vehicular trade, said LDC.