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Closure rate of Independents significantly reduced - BIRA

Independents are weathering the recession better than the multiples, and are capable of reviving UK high streets if "freed from the shackles that hamper them", the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has said.

The Association released new research yesterday, conducted with the Local Data Company (LDC), showing that while closures of independent shops still outnumber openings, the gap has narrowed dramatically and promises to overtake closures if the trends of the last three years continue.

Net closures of independents in the UK dropped from 5,463 in 2009 to 2,298 in 2010, while 2011 (to May) has only seen 298 closures so far.

The LDC's Matthew Hopkinson said: "The interesting fact is that in general terms independents have weathered this storm much better than the multiples, many of whom have left the high street for shopping centres or retail parks or indeed downsized dramatically or worse still failed. By taking just a few, Woolworths, Zavvi, Focus DIY and Oddbins, you are into thousands of stores with just a few fascias. Whilst the independents have been impacted by closures they have also shown a greater propensity to reinvent themselves and reappear albeit at a lower number. Most importantly the closure rate of independents has significantly reduced over the past two years and 2011 has started well."

The significance of independents is "huge", says the LDC; the company tracks more than 500,000 premises in the UK, 65% of which are independents.

The research attributes high street closures to the significant growth of out of town retail, also at a rate much greater than that of in town, as well as the growth in online and supermarkets' share of sales. Added to this is the cost of business rates, and rising rent, commodity and utility prices.

Three significant factors putting pressures on town centres are parking, property and planning, adds Bira. The organisation says parking should be made free everywhere, to prevent footfall being driven out of town centres, while rents and business rate bills should "fall naturally as business withers away".

The findings come as 'retail guru' Mary Portas carries out her review of the high street for the Government.

Source : DIY

14 June 2011
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