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Post-COVID high street landscape revealed in study

21st September 2021

A new study published by the Local Data Company (LDC) reveals that, while the number of chain stores on the high street continues to decrease, the number of independent retailers opening their doors continues to grow.

There was a net figure of 5,251 retail, hospitality and leisure chains who closed their doors permanently in Q2 2021.

However, it would appear that more and more independent retailers are beginning to move into commercial spaces formerly occupied by chain stores.

Indeed, a net figure of 804 independent and local businesses opened their doors for the first time in the first half of 2021. This is the first net increase of independent businesses on the high street in four years.

A perfect illustration of this changing high street landscape can be seen in the fact that approximately 50% of former Topshop stores, the fashion chain that ended its presence on the high street earlier this year, have now been relet to independent operators.

The LDC cites government support measures, such as business rates relief, as factors which have enabled these smaller independent and local businesses to open their doors and for those already established to continue to remain open.

Lucy Stainton, LDC’s commercial director, adds that independent high street retailers have also benefited from changing consumer preference trends, with more and more shoppers “increasingly concerned with the provenance of products, sustainability and supporting local businesses”.

While the number of chain stores shutting down may be a cause for concern, Stainton believes there is some reason to be optimistic, she notes that there has been a “slowdown” in the rate at which stores are closing, with more stores closing permanently in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2021.

However, there is a still a lot of uncertainty in the market and we do not yet know the impact that lifting the moratorium on evictions from commercial properties will have from March next year onwards.

Importantly, however, the report states that “the market is not out of the woods yet”.

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