The slow decline of independent shops

Wigan town centre
Wigan town centre

Wigan’s independent shops are showing a decline as more are closing than opening, according to new figures.

Statistics from The Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) reveal that while the town centre gained 37 new retailers launching last year it saw 38 independent stores closing.

With 214 independent units, they still outnumber major chains, making up 58 per cent of the operational town centre, but this falls behind the national average of 65 per cent small retailers.

The national picture shows that the number of independent shops opening has reduced from 11 a day in 2010 to just one a week in 2015.

Key growth sectors have been barbers, cafes, tobacconists/e-cigarettes, and hair and beauty salons, while those in decline include women’s clothing shops, pubs, newsagents and Indian restaurants.

Tony Porter, owner of GamesnMore, in Market Street, said he has noticed a decline in upcoming independent shops.

He said: “I have been here three-and-a-half years and the number of shops - independent and major chains - closing seems to keep rising. Kidz Klozit, in Makinson Arcade, shut only recently. But I believe three shops have opened in the arcade. It is hard to start a business form scratch, as you need a lot of money and support behind you.”

But with 214 independent stores still operational, many with longevity, including Neil Kay Jewellers and Lady Designer Wear by Janet Dickinson, the picture does not appear too bleak for Wigan.

Only this year, independent clothing store Mod Dolly, opened in Jaxons Court.

Neil Pyke, owner of Kath’s Haberdashery, in the Royal Arcade, is one of the 37 stores which opened last year, moving from Wigan Market.

He said: “I would say that a lot of independent businesses are having a go in the town centre and making things work. There was a new florist and a new e-cigarette shop opening last year who seem to be doing well.”

Emma Barton, assistant director for economic development and skills, said: “Independent businesses bring so much to our town centre and we recognise that many of our shoppers enjoy the high level of service and the wide range of goods offered by our independent retailers. We do all we can to support new businesses including supporting them through their set up to long term help on hand for established shops too.”

Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC, said: “Independents are a key component of our high streets and this is seen in the fact they represent a majority of the units and also the diversity they can bring along with their direct connection to local economies.

“While the numbers remain positive the dramatic decline in the growth of independents from eleven openings a day to just one a week reflects the challenges many independent businesses face.”