Independent Newsagents Disappearing from UK High Streets

Empty shop - newsagentNewsagents are in decline, hairdressers are on the up and most independent businesses in our high streets are now restaurants, bars and cafes, a survey has found.

The three-year study of 75,000 independent high-street businesses by Simply Business found that hospitality and personal grooming thrived in the UK between 2008 and 2010, while fashion and furniture were falling out of favour.

Independent newsagents, however, were hardest hit during the surveyed period, with numbers halving during that time. Meanwhile, the proportion of independent restaurants, bars and cafes increased from 29 to 31 per cent.

“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.”

said Simply Business CEO, Jason Stockwood.

“While it’s great that food and drink businesses are doing well, it’s worrying that certain sectors such as fashion and newsagents are in decline, with competition from the big high street brands the likely cause.”

The findings come as ‘Queen of Shops’, Mary Portas, has been charged with increasing diversity in the UK’s town centres. Stockwood himself called on the Government to help independent start-ups compete with larger businesses with “favourable planning laws, affordable business rates and easily accessible advice, support and finance.”

British Retail Consortium (BRC) spokesman, Richard Dodd, however, said it was important not to see the change in high street business environments as “independents versus chains or shops versus cafes”.

“It’s important to note that the power rests with consumers, so what determines which retailers expand and recede is what consumers want,” he said. “We need to be supporting retailers in general. You only have to look at shop vacancies over the last few years to see there’s an issue with our high streets.”

The BRC is calling for a fairer method of setting business rates and better co-ordinated management to make high streets more attractive places to shop.

Dressmaker Eleanor Callaghan, who runs online fashion retailer Dig for Victory! from a workshop in Brighton, noted that many retailers were choosing to operate online rather than opening bricks-and-mortar stores.

“I can have an online shop that will cost maybe £10 or £20 a month or I can use all of my savings to open a proper shop with no guarantee that I will get as many customers. I know a lot of small businesses that have closed down their shop and carried on their business over the internet.”

Callaghan added, however, that she was planning to combine her online business with a small shop, saying:

“I’ll be finding a very low rent shop with a workshop outside the city centre. It won’t have the same footfall but because I’m going to be doing most of my selling over the internet, I won’t be reliant on a lot of passing trade.”

Independent Newsagents Disappearing from UK High Streets

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