More than 34,500 independent high-street shops opened in 2018 according to a new report by The Local Data Company. This figure, which is up 4.5% on 2017, runs counter to ‘the death of the high street’ story the media prefers to highlight.
The headlines are full of big-name chains closing stores or going into administration. They decline to focus on the new businesses braving a challenging retail environment by setting up shop in the very place the press has consigned to history.
Retail commentator Michael Weedon said on Twitter on May 23: “This is the big, largely hidden high-street story. More than 30,000 independent shops open each year.
“In some years, as in 2018, a greater number close, but in most years more open. That raw fertility is the best hope that town centres have for a vibrant commercial future.”
Weedon describes how The Local Data Company highlights the net loss of independents moderated last year to just over 1000 nationally, and compared this to the net losses of multiples, which worsened to more than six times as high.
These small indie retailers are the unsung heroes of the high street, and deserve recognition. The Mirror supports them with its own High Street Fightback campaign, and said in a story about independent store openings on May 22: “Many of the new small shopkeepers are owners who put their heart and soul into their businesses, driven by a passion for what they do, and sell, and for their local communities.”
The success of these small independent businesses can be boosted by maximising the online platforms available to them. Startup NearSt, for example, whose business model is based on getting people back into high-street shops, allows businesses to boost footfall in store by uploading their stock data to Google using their fast, easy-to-use technology. CEO Nick Brackenbury told Stationery Matters it takes just a few minutes to get it up and running.
NearSt’s model is based on making it as easy as possible for shoppers looking online to find the products they want in real shops near them. Ultimately NearSt believes it can have every product on every high street available on the web, to make it as easy to shop in store as it is online.
The sooner the small independent shops start using this technology, the sooner the ‘death of the high street’ stories will become a thing of the past.