Independents will save the high street, says Bira

Independent stores are closing at a record rate, with more than 8000 closing in the first half of this year, according to a new report.

Around 320 independent shops will close every week in 2013, if current closure rates continue, new research from the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) shows.

But despite predictions of death on the high street, 8,769 independent stores opened between January and July, 424 more than closed.

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Bira deputy chief executive Michael Weedon commented: “To save our town centres as sustainable social and economic entities we need to keep open the independents that are already there and encourage more to open – they have already demonstrated that they do this even in tough times.

“Hitting them with a further £200 million or more in business rates in April next year won’t help that, any more than the £175 million blow that landed this year," added Weedon.

Mobile phone shops and barbers were the biggest category growers this year, respectively up 96 and 77 in total.

Clothing stores were hit the hardest, with 200 closures so far this year, while newsagents witnessed 38 closures.

The future of the high street will be the subject of hot debate this week, with Mary Portas, the “queen of shops” due to appear before a parliamentary committee today to discuss progress since her review of the high street in 2011.

Meanwhile, Bill Grimsey, the former chief executive of Wickes, is set to release a report showing that more than half of small shops owe more in debts than the value of their assets.

He has called on government to give struggling shopkeepers tax breaks to prevent the growth of “zombie companies”.





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