The rate of new independent shop openings slowed to its lowest level since 2009 last year, as the number of womenswear retailers continues to decline.
Across all retail sectors, one independent shop opened per week in 2015, down from 11 a day in 2010, according to the Local Data Company and British Independent Retailers Association.
Women’s clothing shops had another particularly tough year, suffering the highest closure rate. Once all openings and closures of womenswear retailers was taken into account, the number of units was down by a net 233.
Key growth sectors were barbers, cafes, tobacconists or e-cigarette vendors, and hair and beauty salons.
Regionally, the greatest increase in the number of indies was in Yorkshire and the Humber (up by 189 units). Greater London continues to show the greatest decline of independents, down by 347 units.
Retail parks continue to see a positive increase in occupancy (up 0.31%), while high streets increased by 0.37% and shopping centres by 1.41%.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at the LDC said: “Independents are a key component of our high streets. While the numbers remain positive the dramatic decline in the growth of independents from eleven openings a day to just one a week reflects the challenges many independent businesses face.
“A number of factors are at play but one of the major factors has been the move of many high street anchor retailers such as Next, M&S and River Island moving from the high street shop out of town retail parks. These moves result in lower footfall volumes as people follow them out of town, which has a big impact for the smaller retailers left behind.
“2016 will be a pivotal year for independent births and deaths as history tells us that the ability to go from a large number of openings (up 5,615 in H1 2010) to a large number of closures (down 1,666 in H2 2010) in a short time is entirely possible. Only time will tell.“
Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of Bira, added: “While one in eight units changed hands last year, with more than 40 new independents opening every day in the top 500 towns and only slightly fewer closing, the balance produced only a tiny gain across the whole.
“But within the figures we see a powerful rebalancing away from product based retail towards service providers, leisure operators and convenience operators. For multiples the picture is different: of the four subsectors only leisure outlets increased in number. Very gradually we are seeing a new high street emerge, as always happens over time, as commerce adapts to ever-changing conditions.”