New research shows that North West independent retailers are enjoying a renaissance

The latest High Street Tracker report from business insurance broker Simply Business has found that the strongest entrepreneurial presence for independent retail can be found in the North West.

While chains and supermarkets are feeling the crunch, more British independent retailers than ever are seeing record business with the number of independent retailers rising by 110% over the past five years.

The largest leap was seen in 2012 when independent retail businesses grew by around 46% following The Portas Review, published by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

2014 saw coffee shops come to the fore as the most popular independent store, with more cafes established than any other retailer, rising by 31% over the last year.

When combined with the growth of food stores in 2013, the number of both these retail types has increased by more than 100% between 2010 – 2014.

This continued increase in independent food retailers has been associated with the general public’s increasing disinterest in chain retailers and their subsequent financial decline over the last year.

The concept of the high street is fundamentally changing, with consumers going online for the essentials and shopping more as an event or a “social” activity.

David Christian, of the independent company Thomas Christian Estates, said:

“The entrepreneurial spirit has a strong presence in the North. Although the past five years have been difficult, this has inspired a drive that is clearly being reflected in our high streets.

“Unemployment was a stark reality here, but instead of pumping money into social welfare the Government injected support into start-up schemes and bursaries.

“Like many others in the North, instead of lining up for the dole, I took upon myself to set up my own business.

“Though I have faced many hurdles, the appetite for supporting independent local businesses has grown and grown in this community.

“I am now entering my fifth successful year in the construction industry and am optimistic that small businesses owners such as myself will continue to prosper.”

“I believe it is vital for the Government to support our nation’s smaller businesses, particularly in the North, to encourage and rebalance growth in the UK.”

However, this success has not been felt in all sectors. Simply Business discovered that independent furniture shops are not doing as well in this evolving high street, diminishing by 83% over the last year in the face of strong competition. Independent furniture shops are now having to adapt and engage with Britain’s new-found love of upcycling: Simply Business saw an increase in furniture restoration by 17% and craft shops by 51%.

Other businesses failing to find a footing include locksmiths (seeing a 78% decline) and launderettes (declining by 59%).

Analysing more the 69,000 retailers across the country, Simply Business determined that the largest population of independent businesses was now in the North West, with an 89% increase since 2010. There were nearly 11,000 new independent retailers in the North West in 2014.

Jason Stockwood, Simply Business chief executive, said:

“Our latest high street tracker proves the North has the same strong entrepreneurial spirit as the South and you don’t have to be in London to start or run a successful independent business.

“As shopping has become more of a social experience, the high street has adapted over the years to meet changing consumer needs, offering a number of new opportunities for microbusiness owners to make the most of.

“I am, however, disheartened to see the fall in certain sectors which reaffirms our campaign to create more support for our nation’s microbusinesses and sole traders who form a vital part of our society and economy.”


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Words: Peter Cribley

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