The opening of independent retail stores has seen “explosive growth” during the first half of the year, according to new research released by the British Independent Retailers’ Association (bira).
Independents opened a total of 652 shops during the first half of 2017, compared to just four during the first half of 2016. The industry body – which partnered with Moda in August to deliver a content-rich seminar programme – also reported however that national chains saw a decrease in the number of stores (a loss of 659 shops) during the same period.
The Local Data Company – which collated the research on bira’s – described the findings as significant, but also warned that independent retail can be volatile with periods of growth and decline within a relatively short time frame.
“The first half of 2017 has seen remarkable growth in the opening of independent shops, and this is significant in what is a challenging environment,” says Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson. “History however tells us that independents also have the propensity to change rapidly from growth to decline due to the marginal nature of some businesses, shorter lease lengths and wider impacts of changes to the cost funding. But for now, it is a good news story and one that we should celebrate and support.”
For Moda visitors and exhibitors alike, the growth in independent retail was the key focus of last season’s seminar programme. Headlined by a panel discussion hosted by bira – which saw three thriving fashion boutiques share the secrets to their success – and culminating in a day-long celebration of aspiring retailers on the final day of the show with New Business Tuesday, bira and Moda worked together to champion the independent retail sector.
“It’s good to see independents and the high street in particular leading the way in net unit growth for the fisrt half of 2017,” says bira’s CEO Alan Hawkins. “The courage and we hope skill of the independent entrepreneurial spirit will fly long after the prophets of doom are silent.”