Decline of the high street? Actually, it’s never been a better time to be an indie retailer


You’d be forgiven for thinking that the UK’s high streets are doomed, thanks to less-than-rosy media reports. However, contrary to what the newspapers say, many retailers across the country claim that business is booming, and that there are plenty of opportunities for independent companies to thrive.

If you’re about to set up as an indie retailer, here’s a few reasons why the timing is perfect right now, and some tips on how to maximise chances of your success.


The Rise of the Indie Retailer

The biggest threat to conventional high street retail is online shopping. Indeed, this is where many major brands have come unstuck, as they’re unable to compete with the internet retail giants.

However, this is where independent shops can cash in. By offering something ‘a bit different’, you’ll be able to attract customers looking for a more experiential, personalised shopping experience; something both big-name brands and online businesses currently struggle to offer.

Additionally, the Chancellor recently announced the possible introduction of a £1.4billion tax cut to quarter of a million indie retailers in the UK. Talks are also underway regarding raising the business rate threshold to £12,000 (based on the rent value of the premises). This is all great news for smaller independent shops.


Numbers Increasing

The statistics speak for themselves. According to research carried out by American Express and GlobalData, numbers of indie retailers in the UK are set to increase by 0.3% between 2017 and 2023, which bucks the conventional perception that the country’s high streets are in decline.

In particular, businesses that offer the opportunity for customers to socialise as well as purchase goods or services are set to perform well. For example, hair & beauty salons or entertainment services.


Serving Up Success

As businesses like Rafi’s Spicebox in Sudbury can testify, it’s all about providing customers with something different. The company not only offer a range of personalised spices, they also host regular in-store demos, menu sampling, cookery classes and even pop-up events. They often team up with other local businesses, too. For example, to celebrate the World Cup, they worked with a local brewery (Brew York), creating a beer and curry night.

Lee Fernandez, the director, comments: “The internet is so dominant nowadays that for a small high street firm to survive, it needs to offer a service or product for which it’s worth people leaving their home.”


Experiential Selling

Many other successful companies are adopting a more immersive, experiential approach. Sports Direct recently upped their game in their flagship store, which now features a kid’s zone, an Everlast gym and will have an eSports arena in the future.

Debenhams is also focusing on making shopping more sociable and fun. Their new flagship store features the Pinkster gin bar and enhanced changing rooms with mood lighting.

In short, simply competing against the online retailers is unlikely to cut it. However, if you’ve got the vision to offer something fresh and exciting, now is the ideal time to launch your indie business.