Thursday 16 September 2021 4:30 pm

High street gaps filled by independent businesses as chains suffer

Independent shops are filling gaps on high streets left after the shuttering of chain stores, recording their first rise in numbers in four years.

Some 804 locally run convenience stores, barbers, bakers, cafes and fast-food outlets opened in the first half of 2021, according to Local Data Company (LDC) analysts.

While local retailers enjoyed new openings, a net 5,251 chain stores, hospitality and leisure businesses closed down in the year’s first half.

Independent retailers were able to benefit from government support measures and cheaper rents while larger chains, including Debenhams and Paperchase, floundered.

In total, 10,549 more stores are expected to become vacant by the end of this year compared with 11,319 last year, the LDC said in a report published on Thursday.

Independent operators have opened up shop in around half of the Topshop sites relet since the collapse of the fashion brand, although just 10 per cent have been filled.

Socially conscious consumers had also driven independent retailers numbers with high street shoppers increasingly keen to purchase local and sustainable products. 

“For the first time since the onset of the pandemic, there may be some cause for optimism when it comes to the performance of our high streets. The latest LDC figures show a slowdown in the speed of decline, with store losses far more significant in the first half of 2020 when compared to 2021,” Lucy Stainton, LDC’s commercial director, said.

The high street may be further hit when the moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants ends in March 2022, the report warned.