Small retailers ‘more resilient’ than big chains during pandemic

Independent retail and leisure businesses in Britain have shown greater resilience in the Covid-19 pandemic than chain stores, according to new data.

Retail data consultancy the Local Data Company found that small independent firms on the High Street saw a net decline of 1,833 stores in the first half of 2020 — less than a third of the 6,001 chain stores lost.

During the first half of the year there were 20,019 closures of independent shops and 18,186 openings.

That compares with 11,120 closures for branded retailers with five or more stores, and 5,119 openings.

Taken together, there were 31,139 store closures and a net decrease of 7,834 shops.

With almost two-thirds (64%) of the retail and leisure market comprised of independent businesses, the gap between big and small firms is even greater in percentage terms with independent businesses declining by 0.54% versus 2.77% for chain outlets.

“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,” commented Lucy Stainton, head of Retail and Strategic Partnerships at the Local Data Company.

“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 a H1 period since our records began.

Stainton said that independent businesses had fared better as they were able to be more agile, bringing in new product lines and offering deliveries. They also benefited from having a smaller cost base to cover during periods of little or no trade and were 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,” Stainton added. “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.”