Review of the Great British High Street

Simply Business today released findings from a study of 75,000 small independent high-street businesses in a bid to show the changes that have taken place over the past two years. 

The results revealed that:  

  • A third of independent high street shops are now cafes, pubs, restaurants and takeaways.
  • Hairdressers and beauty salons are thriving. The proportion of hairdressers has increased from four to five per cent between 2008 and 2010, and the proportion of beauty salons from two to three per cent. 
  • The number of independent clothes shops has declined, making up only five per cent of high street businesses in 2010, compared to six per cent two years ago. Independent fashion retailers are clearly struggling to compete with the big high street chains and the increasing number of shopping malls, such as Westfield in London and the Bullring development in Birmingham. 
  • Independent newsagents are also struggling, with the proportion of shops having halved between 2008 and 2010. The decrease suggests that traditional corner shops are finding it hard to compete with the proliferation of local supermarket chains on Britain’s high streets. Tesco, for example, is due to open 292 more stores this year alone.
  • Wales is the place to go for a drink: 17 per cent of high street businesses in the area are pubs or bars, two per cent higher than the national average.
  • Predictably London is the restaurant capital of the UK: 11 per cent of high-street businesses are restaurants, five per cent higher than the national average. 
  • Scotland is the place to go for a haircut as seven per cent of all outlets are hairdressers. That’s two per cent higher than the national average.
  • South West, Wales and the North East are top for a caffeine hit, with 12 per cent of shops taken up by cafes or coffee shops, one per cent higher than the average.       
  • Two per cent of high street shops in the South East are florists, one per cent higher than the average.
  • London is the independent fashion capital with the highest proportion of clothes shops – six per cent compared to five per cent nationally.
  • Scotland is also top for takeaways – six per cent compared to five per cent nationally. 
Click on the image below to view the infographic.

High-street infographic

“While it’s great that food and drink businesses are doing well, it’s worrying to see that certain sectors such as fashion and newsagents are in the decline, with competition from the big high-street brands a likely cause,” comments Jason Stockwood, CEO at Simply Business

“With the government currently focused on increasing the number and diversity of independent retailers in Britain’s towns, it’s crucial that start-ups don’t fall at the first hurdle and have every opportunity to compete with the big boys. This means favourable planning laws, affordable business rates and easily accessible advice, support and finance.”

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