High street split

With three out of four brits saying it’s important to support shops on their local high street, but a worrying economic climate leading to national brands closing down more stores in favour of an online presence, we wanted to work out what the UK high street actually looks like in 2019

The UK's Average High Street

To find out, we analysed a sample of 6,682 businesses across 120 high streets from towns in all twelve regions of England, as well as Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We categorized businesses and shops by their function (for example, food & drink, retail or recreational) to understand just how our high streets are made up.

Based on the sample we looked at, the average high street is made up as follows:

As you can see, despite the headlines, retail still retains a strong presence on the UK high street, accounting for nearly one in three businesses. Cafes and other food & drink businesses make up the next highest proportion, coming in at 9% & 8% respectively. On the other side of the scale, services companies (i.e. dry cleaners) make up a much smaller proportion of our high streets at just 0.25%. This was followed closely by automotive services (which might be expected) and recreational establishments like gyms, both of which also came in at less than 1%.


High Streets around the UK

Find out what the high streets in your region are made up of by using the table below:

Category South East East of England West Midlands London North West South West Yorkshire North East East Midlands Scotland Wales UK Average
Retail 34.30% 30.74% 19.39% 20.07% 28.80% 36.61% 41.77% 25.34% 23.21% 29.57% 39.94% 30.32%
Cafe 6.95% 5.01% 4.02% 7.74% 12.58% 13.93% 10.13% 11.38% 13.33% 6.98% 10.63% 9.27%
Banks 6.14% 7.43% 6.79% 4.34% 4.67% 4.10% 8.86% 7.59% 4.44% 5.95% 7.81% 6.28%
Food & Drink 7.07% 6.56% 7.48% 16.16% 9.94% 7.10% 5.06% 10.86% 8.40% 9.03% 5.63% 8.24%
Grocery 2.43% 5.01% 6.51% 5.44% 4.67% 4.92% 6.01% 6.03% 4.69% 6.78% 6.25% 5.32%
Hair & Beauty 7.65% 6.56% 6.79% 7.48% 5.27% 4.37% 4.75% 6.38% 4.69% 7.19% 3.44% 5.78%
Health 5.10% 3.97% 3.60% 6.63% 3.04% 3.01% 3.48% 1.90% 5.19% 4.11% 3.44% 3.95%
Charity 8.57% 7.25% 8.59% 5.78% 8.92% 8.20% 4.43% 8.97% 12.35% 8.21% 8.13% 7.76%
Estate Agent 2.55% 2.76% 3.05% 3.83% 1.42% 1.37% 1.90% 1.21% 2.96% 1.23% 0.63% 2.20%
Fast Food 2.55% 8.64% 8.17% 4.59% 2.43% 3.28% 2.22% 5.34% 4.94% 5.95% 3.13% 4.51%
Community 1.85% 2.94% 3.05% 2.72% 1.83% 2.73% 1.58% 1.72% 3.46% 2.67% 3.75% 2.60%
Home & Interior 4.52% 2.25% 4.71% 5.44% 0.81% 1.09% 0.32% 2.07% 0.74% 0.82% 1.25% 2.25%
Discount Store 1.85% 2.07% 6.65% 1.02% 4.87% 2.19% 1.27% 2.76% 0.99% 2.05% 1.88% 2.52%
Gambling 2.20% 1.73% 3.74% 1.79% 2.03% 1.37% 1.90% 1.21% 3.21% 2.46% 2.19% 2.18%
Business 1.04% 1.73% 1.39% 1.11% 1.22% 0.27% 0.63% 0.86% 0.99% 1.03% 0.31% 1.08%
Travel Agent 2.90% 3.45% 3.05% 1.36% 3.25% 2.19% 3.16% 3.10% 3.46% 2.46% 2.81% 2.78%
Tourism 0.46% 0.17% 0.28% 0.68% 1.83% 2.19% 1.58% 2.07% 0.99% 1.44% 1.56% 1.15%
Recreational 1.16% 0.00% 0.55% 1.53% 0.61% 0.27% 0.63% 0.52% 0.49% 0.41% 0.31% 0.56%
Automotive 0.00% 0.35% 0.28% 0.68% 1.01% 0.27% 0.00% 0.34% 0.49% 1.03% 0.31% 0.42%
Pawn Brokers 0.46% 0.52% 1.52% 0.68% 0.81% 0.55% 0.32% 0.34% 0.49% 0.62% 0.63% 0.58%
Services 0.23% 0.86% 0.42% 0.94% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.49% 0.00% 0.00% 0.25%

The Good, The Bad & The Charity

Next, we grouped businesses by whether or not they might sway a buyer’s decision to move to a particular area, to understand where in the UK had the most and least ‘desirable’ high streets.

We ranked charity shops, community services like libraries, and cafes amongst the most desirable businesses to have on your high street, with towns in the East Midlands coming up top for two out of the three categories. Towns across Yorkshire, unfortunately, came out with the least charity shops and community services available on their high streets, according to our sample.

Next, we looked at what some of the least desirable businesses to prospective buyers might be, grouping together pawn brokers and second hand shops, gambling establishments and fast food outlets. Interestingly, the West Midlands had the highest proportion of pawn brokers and gambling shops as per our sample, with East England taking the title for most fast food establishments.


Independents vs. Non-independents

Research suggests that local independent shops are of high importance to British home-owners – in fact, more than one in three Brits would like to see a return to smaller, local shops in their town. To find out which towns & regions in the UK are championing independent businesses, we grouped all the shops in our sample by whether or not they were owned by a franchise, or part of a chain of three or more stores.

Ireland came out as the best place for independent stores, with more than one in two businesses on the high street (52%) being independently owned. According to our data, Yorkshire came out as having the least independent high streets, with just over 28% (around 1 in 4) businesses coming out as independent.


How does your local high street stack up? If you think it needs a new independent business, why not check out our range of commercial mortgages to get you started. We also offer auction finance for those looking to pick up a cheap high street property on the market, and commercial loans for existing business owners looking to give their store a new lease of life.

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