As the pandemic begins to look more and more in the rearview mirror every day, Britain’s high streets will be rejoicing as there is finally some good news for retail.
The first six months of 2021, the Local Data Company (LDC) reported, witnessed a return to growth for Britain’s high streets.
There were more openings of independent stores in the period than closures, a net change of 804, as the sector was boosted by consumers opting to stay and shop locally.
This is not only the first time this has happened since the pandemic, but since 2017.
The latest LDC data shows that government support such as furlough, the moratorium on tenant evictions and business rates relief, which has been extended until March 2022 (66% relief from 1 July 2021), is having the desired effect.
Lucy Stainton, commercial director at the Local Data Company, commented: “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.
“The latest LDC figures show a slowdown in the speed of decline, with store losses far more significant in the first half of 2020 when compared to 2021.
“Interestingly, the independent sector has returned to growth for the first time since 2017 as the number of closures dropped and openings have steadily increased year on year, boosting the overall figures.
“We can attribute this improved performance to a few things; the success of government support schemes which will remain in place until March 2022; the growing appetite for categories such as take away food and convenience stores, boosted by several lockdowns, and a consumer which is increasingly concerned with the provenance of products, sustainability and supporting local businesses.
“Independent operators are also benefitting from the volume of available units, many of which come with attractive deals from a new market of shopping centre landlords who are now looking to the independent sector to fill the significant number of stores being vacated by chains.”