Consumption Trumps Consumerism for High Street Entrepreneurs

  • A third of independent high street shops are now cafes, pubs, restaurants and takeaways
  • Independent clothes retailers and newsagents in decline
  • Hairdressers and beauty salons thriving

Independent and start-up hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, pubs and cafes, are trumping independent retail stores on the high street, according to research by Simply Business, the largest business insurance provider in the UK. A study of 75,000high street businesses quoted by Simply Business since 2008 shows that last year 31% were restaurants, pubs or cafes, an increase of two per cent since 2008.

In contrast, the number of independent clothes shops has declined, making up only five per cent of high street businesses in 2010, compared to six per cent two years ago. The results suggest that independent fashion retailers are struggling to compete with the big high street chains and the increasing number of shopping malls, such as Westfield in London and the Bullring development in Birmingham.

Independent newsagents are also struggling according to Simply Business, with the proportion of shops having halved between 2008 and 2010. The decrease suggests that traditional corner shops are finding it hard to compete with the proliferation of local supermarket chains on Britain’s high streets. Tesco, for example, is due to open 292 more stores this year alone.

Jason Stockwood, CEO at Simply Business, commented:

“The business climate has clearly been more favourable for some retail businesses than others and this has influenced the make-up of high streets across the UK. While it’s great that food and drink businesses are doing well, it’s worrying to see that certain sectors such as fashion and newsagents are in the decline, with competition from the big high street brands a likely cause.”

The findings are timely given the recently announced review into the decline of the high street headed by ‘Queen of Shops’, Mary Portas. Portas aims to reduce the number of “clone towns” and increase diversity in town centres, with fewer big chains and more independent businesses. (See Mary Portas’ Independent Review of the High Street)

“With the Government currently focused on increasing the number and diversity of independent retailers in Britain’s towns, it’s crucial that start-ups don’t fall at the first hurdle and have every opportunity to compete with the big boys. This means favourable planning laws, affordable business rates and easily accessible advice, support and finance.”

Two success stories however are hairdressers and beauty salons, showing that high street chains haven’t had such a large impact when it comes to personal grooming. The proportion of hairdressers has increased from four to five per cent since 2008 and the proportion of beauty salons from two to three per cent.

The figures also highlight some regional high street hot spots:

  • Wales is the place to go for a drink – 17% of high street businesses in the area are pubs or bars, two per cent higher than the national average.
  • Predictably London is the restaurant capital of the UK – 11% of high street businesses are restaurants, a massive five per cent higher than the national average.
  • Scotland is the place to go for a haircut as seven per cent of all outlets are hairdressers. That’s two per cent higher than the national average.
  • South West, Wales and the North East are top for a caffeine hit, with 12% of shops taken up by cafes or coffee shops, one per cent higher than the average.
  • Two per cent of high street shops in the South East are florists, one per cent higher than the average.
  • London is the independent fashion capital with the highest proportion of clothes shops – six per cent compared to five per cent nationally.
  • Scotland is also top for takeaways – 6% compared to 5% nationally.

Comparison of the top 20 high street shops in 2008 and 2010 (not including food and drink)

 

National ranking – 2008

 

National ranking – 2010

Change since 2008

1

CLOTHES SHOP

1

HAIRDRESSING

Up one place

2

HAIRDRESSING

2

CLOTHES SHOP

Down one place

3

GROCER

3

GROCER

No change

4

NEWSAGENT

4

BEAUTY SALON

Up one place

5

BEAUTY SALON

5

GIFT SHOP

Up one place

6

GIFT SHOP

6

OFF-LICENCE

Up two places

7

ARTS, CRAFTS & TEXTILES

7

BAKERY

Up four places

8

OFF-LICENCE

8

ARTS, CRAFTS & TEXTILES

Down one place

9

FLORISTS

9

NEWSAGENT

Down five places

10

FURNITURE SHOP

10

FLORISTS

Down one place

11

BAKERY

11

SWEET SHOP

Up five places

12

COMPUTER

12

PET SHOP

Up one place

13

PET SHOP

13

FURNITURE SHOP

New entry

14

ELECTRICAL GOODS

14

COMPUTER

New entry

15

SPORTS SHOP

15

ELECTRICAL GOODS

New entry

16

SWEET SHOP

16

SPORTS SHOP

Down one place

17

BUTCHER

17

BRIDAL SHOP

Up two places

18

CHILDRENS CLOTHING

18

JEWELLERY

New entry

19

BRIDAL SHOP

19

CHILDRENS CLOTHING

New entry

20

CORNER SHOP

20

DELICATESSEN

New entry

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