High Street Resurgence – Independent Stores to the Rescue

By smei

Posted 30/10/18

The last decade or so may have been a time of hardship on the high street, with big brands going to the wall and empty shops a common sight, but things may just be changing. And it is independent stores – our “High Street Heroes” ‒ leading the charge.

All across the country, high streets are going back in time with creative small businesses springing up. They are recreating the high streets of old, where people visited not just to shop, but for socialising and leisure – and to support the small brands that give high streets their character and individuality.

Indeed, according to our own research, carried out as part of our “High Street Heroes” campaign, the top reasons why people visit their high street stores include the opportunity to visit quirky and unique shops, and a desire to support local, independent businesses.

The renewed strength of smaller high streets, no doubt buoyed by that local support, has not gone unnoticed. Figures from business research analyst LDC show that the number of independent outlets has risen all over England in every region during the past year, while chain stores have declined [1].

Times have certainly changed since Mary Portas wrote ‘The Portas Report’ in 2011, with the town of Ely offering an astonishing example. Portas wrote that the Cambridgeshire town seemed to be wilfully harming its own high street, building out-of-town shopping with a free bus service. However, in the years since then independent shops have come to the fore, accounting for 89% of retail growth, and making Ely high street a success story along with areas like York’s Bishopthorpe Road[2].

Only this week Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond announced some potentially good news for UK independent retailers as part of his 2018 budget. Read more here.

  Live Like The Boy Shop

Recently we launched our “High Street Heroes” campaign to identify the businesses behind the resurgence of the high street, and we have been overwhelmed with the response. Everywhere we looked, we found fantastic businesses breathing life back into local high streets, through showing confidence in local communities and being rewarded with real success – exactly the kind of businesses we want to champion.

There are so many examples. In Lancashire, Live Like the Boy, Beauty by Joanne, Ashworth and Tenant Jewellers, and Kimora Fashion are thriving – as are the award-winning Beech’s Butchers and Your Convenience in Barrowford, Castle Chippy, and the Ideal Pet Stores in the lovely market town of Clitheroe. Then there are Status Dry Cleaners in Padiham, Cartmell’s Greengrocers, the recently opened Lawrence Hotel, and the Michelin starred The White Swan at Fence.

Meanwhile, in Merseyside, the £60 million regeneration of New Brighton, completed in 2011, brought a new cinema, hotels, restaurants, and bars plus a supermarket on the seafront – not to mention thousands of visitors.

But in amongst the national chains arriving in New Brighton, the independent stores are the glue.  New “high street heroes” are adding colour, interest and a sense of individuality. From New Brighton to Wallasey, independents like the Bow-Legged Beagle, Cabovino, and Salon M all feature in our “High Street Heroes” campaign.

Across the Mersey, Liverpool city centre is also home to some popular independent businesses like Rococo Coffee House, restaurants like Maray and Mowgli, and Cow (a vintage clothing store). Even outside the centre, thriving communities of “high street heroes” can be found on Lark Lane, Smithdown Road, and Allerton Road – businesses like Dafna’s Cheesecake Factory, The Powder Room, and B.Shrigley & Son Fishmongers.


Less than an hour down the East Lancs Road, Manchester is home to a dazzling array of high street businesses including Joules Hair Design, The Hair & Beauty Gurus, Lisa’s Caribbean Kitchen, Christine’s Beauty, Flourish, and Framed Opticians.

Cross the Pennines and a similar story emerges. Yorkshire is spoilt for choice when it comes to local independent gems, including Boris & Co barbers in Leeds, Fullers Bakery in Goole, Acorn Lodge in Harrogate, and many, many more.

All these businesses exemplify the spirit of our campaign – they are real life high street heroes.

It seems these are not isolated cases. A recent report by commercial property agent, Cushman & Wakefield [3] found thriving high streets, driven by independent stores, all across the UK.  It highlights Cirencester in Gloucestershire ‒ home to independent stores like Decimal (skate fashion), Lord (barber), and Tidings (cards and gifts) – as performing well. Meanwhile, the report also pointed to towns such as Cambridge, Guildford, Bath, Chichester, Kington-upon-Thames, Winchester, Oxford, and Marlow as homes to thriving high streets.

Similarly, Bow Street in Langport, Somerset is in the midst of a stunning revival that makes the floods of 2013/14 feel like a distant memory ‒ and towns like Pateley Bridge and Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, Blackburn in Lancashire, Prestatyn in Wales, and Hoole in Cheshire are following suit. Once again, it is independent stores leading the charge [4].


The list goes on and on, and gives us so much hope for the high street. These and many more high street heroes really are breathing life back into our towns and villages, and local people are responding with support and love.

At smei, we are committed to doing our bit to help these heroes.  Our campaign will showcase some of the best but we are also helping these businesses – from fashion stores to hairdressers, restaurants, takeaways and bars to bookstores – to build on solid foundations.

Since 2002 we’ve been helping to protect these businesses, giving them peace of mind and allowing them to do what they do best most – run their business. We do this by delivering the right business insurance for the UK’s high street shops and small businesses, easily and without fuss, at a competitive price.

  Your Convenience Store


[1] Source: The Guardian

[2] Source: The Guardian

[3] http://www.cushmanwakefield.co.uk/en-gb/news/2018/04/retail-resilience-index-lists-top-performing-uk-high-streets

[4] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/great-british-high-street-awards-2016-high-street-good/

Posted 30/10/18

Author: smei

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