The British High-Street Opportunity for Independents

Whilst it seems that every other week there is a news story about another high-street chain that is closing stores or restructuring, there also seems to be a hope on the horizon for high-street retail as many independent businesses buck the trend.

With Ipsos research showing that £1 in every £5 is being spent online , and many people stating that their visits to the high street were months apart, shops on the high street are having to reconsider their business models all together .

Who’s bucking the trend?

BHS and Primark, two major high-street names, one failed the other flourishing (apparently), what makes the difference. The answer; customer experience.

Customer experience, or customer focused delivery has been heralded as one of the major reasons why Primark has bucked the trend.

Behemoths with deep pockets aside, there are also smaller retail stores that are bucking the trend and are doing so on the same principle that underpins Primark’s success. Have a look below at trends identified by some recent research.

* More stores opened More stores closing
Convenience stores Confectionery / news
Coffee shops Fashion and clothing
Beauty salons Music / games / DVDs
Nail salons Shoe shops
Restaurants and bars Card and gift shops
Barbers Betting shops
Vape shops Antique shops
Healing / treatments Bookshops
Takeaways Flooring shops
Tattoo parlours Household goods
Cafes Furniture and textiles

Look at those stores on the right vs those stores listed on the left and it’s clear to see that retail stores that offer consumers experiences and services that they cannot get online, are flourishing. Those that continue to only offer ‘a place to purchase things’ are being left behind.

The idea that families will still venture to a busy high street to shop for shoes, clothes and books is a romantic and out-dated ideal. These types of purchase are seen more and more as a chore, no one enjoys the ‘experience’ of chores.

Primark is essentially ‘a place to purchase things’, but has put customer experience at the core of its model. It’s new superstore in Birmingham is testament to this. Under one roof, customers can have lunch, get a haircut, have a manicure, create their own bespoke Disney T-shirts, oh and you can also shop for some new work-wear if you have energy after all that.

The opportunity for independent SMEs

It’s clear that many of the big retail firms have lost sight of what consumers want. Look at the list on the right compared to the list on the left, how many ‘big-name companies’ are associated with the retail categories in the ‘failing column’ , now look at the list on the left and think about how many more independents stores of these kinds you’ve noticed on your local high street. Chances are you named fewer ‘big names’ for those types of retail on the left.

retail business loans for growth

Smaller, independents are able to offer a more intimate and personal experience that most big chains cannot. The ability for independents to initiate change quickly, connect digitally (in a personal manner) with customers (and potential customers) all go towards a customer’s experience, driving them to engage with retailers rather than just purchase from them.

Tips for Independent Retailers

  • Location, location – Make sure that you carefully research where you set up shop. Make sure that you’ll get enough natural foot traffic and are visible to the passerby.
  • Engage – Get on social media, talk to the customers that walk through the door get to know their name, embed yourself in the community.
  • Don’t overstock– Stock costs money, money that you could be using elsewhere in the business,  stock things that customers actually want, not what you think they want.  Make sure you balance the supply and demand.
  • Eye on Cash flow – Cash is king in any business, particularly retail. Cash flow problems are one of the biggest reasons retail stores fail. Make sure you’re invoicing on time and try negotiate more favourable terms with suppliers. Keep a cash flow forecast!

How can you prepare your business for finance?

Rebuildingsociety.com have funded a number of retail high-street and online retail businesses over the years and it’s been evident that many of these businesses have rejigged their business model to adapt to the changing trends. Candy hero for example, has chosen to close all high street store in favour of online stores.

We fund a large variety of businesses and are committed to supporting the British Economy and high street.

We can help retail businesses finance:

  • New premises
  • MBOs and Acquisitions
  • Stock
  • New Staff
  • Cashflow

One of the biggest advantages of using a peer-to-business lending platform to raise finance for your retail business is that you’re borrowing from people and not an institution. The people that lend to you can become your clients and advocates. We help foster and encourage this relationship by rewarding lenders with cashback for supporting businesses local to them!

Apply for a small business loan in under 5 minutes

You can apply for a business loan for your retail business on our platform in under 5 minutes. If you’d like to speak to one of our team first simply contact us on any of the below options.

Find out more about business loans

Phone: 0333 303 0972

Email: apps@rebuildingsociety.com


  • Bamfield, J.A.N. (2018) Retail At Bay 2018 Report, May, Norwich: Centre for Retail Research.

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