The number of clothing and footwear independents fell in 2014 as charity, coffee and pound shops continued their march on the high street.
In 2014, 15,762 independent shops opened and 15,416 closed in total (a net increase of 346 shops, up 0.3% year on year), according to a report by the Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers Association. The year before 15,908 opened and 15,182 closed (a net increase of 726, up 0.7%),
However, the number of clothing and footwear shops declined. Womenwear shops were hardest hit, with a net decrease of 103 shops (down 5.7% year on year). Menswear stores reduced by 63 stores (6.9%) and footwear by 57 (7.2%) on 2013.
The South West showed the greatest increase of independents, up 1% or 111 shops in 2014. London on the other hand showed the biggest decline, down 0.6% year on year. The North East reversed a decline of 0.8% in 2013 to achieve a net growth of 0.7%.
Retail parks continued to see a positive increase in occupancy, up 2.4% year on year, while high streets remained flat at 0.1% and shopping centres decline by 1%. Independents continue to account for 66% of all retail units in the UK, the same as in 2013.
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “The numbers show how fierce the clothing market is and how significant online retailing in this sector is becoming as many independents struggle to compete with fast value fashion. Global trends indicate that this will become increasingly significant and a key aspect to any high street.”
Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, added: “Looking down the road the future is darkening. Chains have tripled their closure rates and while independents continue to open to fill voids, the margin of growth is becoming vanishingly slender.
“The second half of 2014 actually showed a small net loss in the numbers of independents after a gain in the first six months. Following the path of the trend from the past four years leads to a point at which there will no growth in numbers of small shops and the prospect that vacancy will start to rise again.”