This year, your local high street or shopping quarter may begin to look a little different. As multiple stores (N.B. brands with more than five stores nationally) like New Look, Maplin and Toys 'R' Us close at a rapid pace, independent stores give rise to the change. Consumers are looking for something unique; just for what they seek in a purchase, suggesting the 'death' of the high street may be imminent. Often, independent goods have an unrivalled quality and the service is intimate, offering a retail experience that is memorable and tailored to the customer.

This is reflected online too, with sites such as Etsy, Notonthehighstreet and platforms selling wares from small retailers, such as OnBuy, luring shoppers to seek alternatives to factory made products.

Multiple and Independent Openings and Closures, 2017

Independent shop

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Looking at 2017, against the same period a year before, the number of multiple stores is falling. Inspired, OnBuy decided to consider where chain stores have declined in comparison to the number of independent stores opening.

It was found chain store closures have been seen in every region - except Yorkshire and the Humber with a rise of 11 openings. The steepest falls were seen in the West Midlands (-143 multiple closures), Greater London (-92 multiple closures) and the East of England (-86 multiple closures).

Independents, on the other hand, grew everywhere except in the East (-19 independent closures) and South West (-29 independent closures) of England. In fact, the North West (230 independent openings), West Midlands (194 independent openings) and Scotland (114 independent openings) saw an extraordinary growth in their independent store markets.

Further, Barbers, Beauty Salons, Cafes and Tearooms, Convenience Stores and Tobacconists/Vaping Shops are classifications succeeding the change, per The Retail and Leisure Trends Report by LDC. In contrast, Public Houses and Inns, Women's Clothes, Newsagents, Bookmakers and Shoe Shops are suffering vast closures.


Store Vacancy, 2017

In analysing The Retail and Leisure Trends Report by LDC further, in 2017, OnBuy discovered Retail Parks continue to benefit from the lowest rate of vacancy among location types - at a rate of 5.1%. Whereas rates in Town Centres (11%) and Shopping Centres (12.6%) are higher.

However, it is important to remember that Retail Parks are purpose-built for retail and therefore attract increasing numbers of leisure operators, such as coffee shop aficionados, with an eye to succeed in profit.

Taking time to consider retail and leisure vacancy rates by region, since the end of 2016, only three regions have seen an increase: Greater London (up +0.1%), the South West (up +0.1%) and Yorkshire and the Humber - with the biggest increase of +0.6%.

Open sign

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The best, and doubtless welcome decrease was in the North West, which improved by -0.2%.

Indeed, regions that currently hold the highest rate of vacancy include the North West (15.1%), the North East (14.8%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (14.5%.) Alternately, the East of England (10%), South East (9.9%) and Greater London (7.5%) hold the lowest rate of vacancy.

Certainly, the fact that only three regions have seen an increase in vacancy could suggest that the sheer level of chain shops closing is leaving space free for independent retailers to take-up (and make a success of) venues - with the right support.

Cas Paton, managing director of OnBuy comments: "In the grand scheme of things, vacancy rates are low. The fact that only three regions have seen an increase in vacancy is positive and we must focus on this. Otherwise, we risk consistent, unobliging news of multiple closures obscuring our vision and progress.

It is sad to see well-loved, British companies closing- but we must move with the times. Keen business men and women have their eye on vacant spaces across the country and we must support our local independents, bricks-and-mortar businesses. It's the only way for retail to survive."