The number of independent retailers that opened new stores in the UK was up 4.5% year on year in 2018.
It comes after 34,500 independents opened and 35,500 closed. This compares with 33,000 openings and 34,500 closures in 2016.
Independents accounted for 64% of all retail and leisure units across Great Britain in 2018, new data from the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has revealed.
The number of independents that opened in shopping centres was up 1.1% year on year, and “played a key role in replacing the net loss of 811 chains in shopping centres”, LDC and BIRA said.
Independent women’s clothing shops were among the categories in decline, alongside estate agents and newsagents.
On the high street, there was “no change” in the number of independent retailers that opened and closed last year.
Retail parks, meanwhile, benefited from a 4.6% year-on-year increase, but this location type accounts for just 0.2% of all independents across the country.
Head of retail and strategic partnerships at LDC Lucy Stainton said: “2018 saw many well-known brands exit the high street and rationalise estates of bricks-and-mortar stores.
“A by-product of this was a plethora of units coming into the market, which agile entrepreneurs have been quick to reoccupy. For independent business owners, the benefits include increased footfall and access to marketing.”
However, BIRA CEO Andrew Goodacre warned: “The overall net decline of 1,013 shops (in 2018) shows independents are struggling.
“Business rates continue to be a huge burden on independent retail business … We will continue to fight to level the playing field for retail as a whole and allow bricks-and-mortar retailers the chance to compete with online.”