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Womens indies worst hit in 2012

Womenswear indies have repeated the pattern seen in the multiple environment, with high number of stores shuttering their doors in the year.

Figures published today by the Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) show a 0.03% drop in the number of indies on the high street – the first decline in two years – with womenswear indies topping the list.

In total there was a net reduction of 89 womenswear indies, down 4.4%, while the menswear sector saw 34 net closures, accounting for a 3.7% drop.

Overall, multiples were harder hit than independent stores, with a 2.7% fall in their town centre presence during 2012, with a net reduction of 1,779 stores. This compares with a decline of 174 in 2011.

Figures published by LDC and PricewaterhouseCoopers yesterday show that womenswear also suffered in the multiple environment, with a total of 175 net closures last year, amounting to a drop of 7.2%. General clothing was also hit, with 120 stores shutting, equivalent to a 8.7% decline.

Meanwhile, payday loans or cheque cashing businesses were the fastest-growing multiple category, with 121 net stores opening last year, a rise of 20%.

Within independents, barbers won out, growing store presence by 130, or 6%. Matthew Hopkinson, director of LDC, said the end of 2012 and the beginning of this year had seen “the most dramatic period on record” as a result of administrations that affected more than 1,400 shops.

“We can expect to see this trend continue and indeed accelerate in 2013 as more leases come up for renewal along with demands from consumers for space that delivers an experience good enough to pull them away from their technology devices,” he added.

Hopkinson said the data regarding indies in particular was “a wake-up call”. “With more than 300,000 independents across Britain a marginal turn for the worse can create a large number of additional vacant units in a very short space of time,” he said.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of Bira, described the figures as “a storm warning”. He added: “Retailers have to deal with the commercial realities. Government must be prepared to keep the high street afloat – loading it with more cost in business rates in April would be to throw it a dead weight when what it really needs is a lifeline.”

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