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Real Business has identified the 20 UK retailers that are defying the downturn, with super-smart tactics and awesome growth.

It's been a stormy time for UK retailers. Numerous high-profile failures have hit the headlines, and insolvency rates have gone through the roof. It's no surprise that the downfalls of Jessops and HMV have raised levels of doubt about the future of the UK high street.

Online shopping has taken a lot of the blame for the downfall of physical stores. But preaching the coming death of the high street is dangerous. Physical shops will always have their place; it's the relationship between online and offline that will fuel sales growth in the years ahead.

Away from the collapsed HMVs and Jessops of recent months there's a notable list of retailers that are growing fast and showing promising numbers. Current turmoil doesn't prove an imminent high street apocalypse – rather, it filters out the wrong 'uns and paves the way for a modern offline retail sector, living alongside the online marketplace.

With smart multi-channel strategies, and clever positioning in market niches, many high-street retailers are still experiencing positive growth. With this in mind, Real Business has joined forces with data provider Jordans to find the fastest-growing retailers in the UK.

The 20 fastest-growing retailers on the high street

1. Dune

CAGR (average compound annual growth rate in turnover over a four-year period): 60.12 per cent
Latest turnover: £130.9m

2. FootAsylum

CAGR: 58.82 per cent
Latest turnover: £44.8m

3. Donna Ida

CAGR: 58.1 per cent
Latest turnover: £2.3m

4. Bonzai

CAGR: 57.72 per cent
Latest turnover: £8.3m

5. Fashion HQ

CAGR: 56.95 per cent
Latest turnover: £1.4m

6. Pure Collection

CAGR: 53.74 per cent
Latest turnover: £24.1m

Looking at our top six, three success strategies jump out: price, multi-channel strategy, and niche. Dune, with its 215 stores and additional online/mobile strategy, focuses on middle-class men and women, and builds on its strong brand recognition: the name is synonymous with affordable, good value footwear. With an impressive four-year growth rate of over 60 per cent, its customer base is extraordinarily healthy. 

Showing similarly excellent growth, FootAsylum may only sell through some 27 stores, but its focus is more niche, selling quality sports footwear from selected brands. This has gathered the retailer a loyal following.

Higher-end fashion retailer Donna Ida offers catwalk- and celebrity-led garments, as well as a bespoke tailoring service. Despite its relatively modest turnover of just over £2m (with only four shops), its 58.1 per cent growth rate shows how physical shops can offer a physical experience, rather than just be a place to flog stuff. One successful entrepreneur and retail-watcher, Jonathan Quin of World First, says: "Whoever maintains a presence on the high street will have to offer something that can’t be acquired via the web, whether that’s in terms of the products they sell or the shopping experience itself.

“The future of retail is destined to be shaped by convenience. If there’s no reason to visit the high street, people won’t go. Those that succeed will offer something that can’t easily be delivered by a courier, or those that offer an 'experience': Abercrombie and Fitch’s London store with its dancers and loud music is a good example of a shop that offers something that can’t be replicated online." Wise words.

Pure Collection is notable for its reverse marketing strategy. It began life as an online and catalogue retailer and only recently expanded into physical stores. It has already become the new normal that young businesses and start-ups begin life online, and are only rewarded with an offline presence if their numbers allow for it. Are physical stores a retail luxury now?


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