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Published on September 16th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Independent sector returns to growth in first half of 2021

The first six months of 2021 saw the independent store market return to growth for the first time since 2017 as entrepreneurs took advantage of the availability of retail units and the sector gained from increased consumer support for local businesses.

Figures from the Local Data Company show there were more openings of independent stores (18,768) than closures (17,964), a net change of +804, with government support such as furlough, the moratorium on tenant evictions and business rates relief, which has been extended until March 2022 (66% relief from 1st July 2021), having the desired effect.

However, LDC said when support ends next year, the market could see increased closures.

Nonetheless, the figure for independent stores is in stark contrast to the significant loss in units seen across the retail chain landscape, which saw a net loss of 5,251 in the first six months of 2021 – an improvement on the figure for H1 2020, but still significantly higher than pre-pandemic losses.

As a result of the reduction in multiples, independent occupiers have had access to an increased volume of vacant units, often with attractive deals from landlords including rent-free periods and capital expenditure contributions to encourage take-up of empty units.

While food, convenience and leisure feature highly in the data, the sectors are vital contributors for a vibrant independent retail community in which all areas of trade will thrive.

Lucy Stainton, Commercial Director at the Local Data Company, said: “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.”

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