Independent retailers better at coping with Covid crisis

Independent businesses are surviving the Covid-19 crisis better and have been “more resilient” compared with chain stores, according to new data.

The latest research by the Local Data Company (LDC) and accountancy firm PwC found that independent retailers on the high street had fewer stores closed compared with chain shops.

In the first half of 2020, independent retail saw a net decline of 1,833 outlets, but that was less than a third of the 6,001 stores closed by chain stores.

There were 31,139 store closures and 23,305 store openings in total, which gives a net decline of 7,834 outlets in H1 of 2020. That was an increase on H1 2019, when there were 25,762 closures and 22,115 openings – a net decline of 3,647.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: “The latest figures on the GB retail and leisure market tell the story of an immensely challenging few months for the retail and hospitality sector. While the independent market has fared much better than chains, it is still in decline and combined, these two sectors total the biggest decline seen in an H1 period since our records began.

“The independent market has fared better, as these businesses have been able to be more agile, bringing in new product lines and offering food deliveries, have a smaller cost base to cover during periods of little or no trade and have been able to take advantage of government support schemes.

“However, as we continue through the year with various local lockdowns and restrictions, life will not get any easier for operators. These figures mark only the first phase in the impact of the pandemic on the retail economy this year, with 20% of the market still temporarily shut and with more months of difficult trading conditions ahead.”

Stainton concluded: “This being said, we still absolutely believe in the validity and relevance of physical retailing. While there is no denying the impact of the pandemic on these sectors, this likely represents the inevitable structural change required, albeit more painful as a result of the velocity and abruptness. With independents adapting well, new entrants still acquiring stores and sectors, such as personal grooming, continuing to thrive, there is no doubt we will eventually get to a more condensed, though diverse and exciting, retail and hospitality landscape as businesses and places acclimatise.”

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