North west emerges as most independent retail region in the UK

The biggest surge was seen in 2012, following ‘The Portas Review: independent review into the future of our high streets’ published by the Department of Communities and Local Government and BIS.

In 2014, coffee shops emerged as the most popular independent store to open, with more cafes established than any other retailer and rising by 31 per cent over twelve months. When coupled with independent food stores – the most popular in 2013 – the number of these shops has risen by 100 per cent between 2010 and 2014.

This ongoing increase in independent food retailers is aligned to the public’s growing disinterest in chain stores, contributing to last year’s poor financial results from the UK’s leading supermarkets. The steep upturn also typifies the changing role of the high street, as consumers increasingly buy their essentials online and go shopping as a more social, ‘on spec’ activity.

Simply Business, who commissioned this annual survey, found that independent furniture shops were not faring as well in the high street’s evolution, falling by 83 per cent last year. As independent furniture shops struggle with fierce competition, it appears that many of them are adapting, and tapping into the nation’s fondness of up cycling.

As consumers now tend to update and revive their existing possessions rather than buy new, last year Simply Business saw an increase in furniture restoration and craft shops. Much like furniture shops however, locksmiths and launderettes were also struggling to prosper.

The leading business insurance broker analysed over 69,085 independent retail outlets across the UK in 2014 to find the largest population is now in the north west, with an 89 per cent rise over the past five years.

Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business, said, “Our latest high street tracker proves the north has the same strong entrepreneurial spirit as the south and you don’t have to be in London to start or run a successful independent business.

“As shopping has become more of a social experience, the high street has adapted over the years to meet changing consumer needs, offering a number of new opportunities for microbusiness owners to make the most of. I am however disheartened to see the fall in certain sectors which reaffirms our campaign to create more support for our nation’s microbusinesses and sole traders who form a vital part of our society and economy.”