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Independence day for malls
Published:  31 March, 2016

Shopping centres are becoming more welcoming towards independent retailers

New analysis by The Local Data Company and the British Independent Retailers Association shows that shopping centres across the UK saw a net increase in occupancy of +1.41% in 2015, making them the best-performing retail format ahead of high streets which saw occupancy improve by +0.37%. and retail parks which saw a 0.31% uplift.

And according to LDC director Matthew Hopkinson much of this improvement can be attributed to independent retailers. “Shopping centre owners are starting to see the value of having Independents in their shopping centres,” he said, pointing out that independents now account for 65% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain.

At a time when multiple retailers are cutting back on their estates independents are growing, albeit at a slower rate than in the past. Analysis of town centres, shopping centres and retail parks shows that chain retailers have continued to decline with a net loss of -1,147 shops (-0.59%) in 2015 across Great Britain, which compares to -1,436 shops (-0.76%) in 2014.

But conversely, in 2015 the net change in independents was +0.18%, down slightly from +0.21% in 2014. In 2015 34,288 independents opened and 33,812 closed, down on 2014 when 34,833 opened and 34,324 closed.

Reflecting the inexorable rise of online shopping, comparison retailers are closing stores to be replaced by convenience and leisure offers. According to LDC’s data comparison goods shops declined by -1.25% in 2015, exactly the same rate as in 2014.

But leisure uses – restaurants, cafes, bookmakers and entertainment – grew by +0.31% in 2015, accelerating from a growth rate of +0.25% in 2014. And convenience retail – bakers, butchers, food shops and supermarkets – saw a net increase of +0.66% in 2015 versus an increase of +1.14% in 2014.

In terms of individual categories, service retail – health & beauty, financial services, tattoo parlours and estate agents– increased by the greatest rate at +1.25%, compared to +1.30% in 2014. Key growth sectors have been barbers, cafes and hair & beauty salons. Tobacconists/e-cigarettes (up by 54%) and American Restaurants (up 36%) have increased the most as a percentage of their total occupied units.

But sectors in decline include women’s clothing shops, pubs, newsagents and Indian restaurants.

Regionally, Yorkshire and the Humber showed the greatest increase of independents at +0.81% versus +0.82% in 2014. But Greater London continues to show the greatest decline in independents at -0.51% versus -0.34% in 2014.

Sparkhill, Birmingham has the highest percentage of independents while Telford is the ultimate clone town with just 1 per cent of its units occupied by independents.