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High Street Split

With three in four Brits saying it’s important to support shops on their local high street, but a worrying economic climate leading to national brands favouring an online presence, we wanted to discover what the UK high street actually looks like in 2019 and how that differs by location.

To find out, we analysed a sample of 6,682 businesses across 120 high streets from towns in all 12 regions of England, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We categorised businesses and shops by their function (for example, food and drink, retail or recreational) to understand just how our high streets are made up.

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. In fact, a recent survey* revealed B&M as the most wanted retailer on the high street.

Cafes and other food and drink businesses make up the next highest proportion, coming in at nine per cent and eight per cent respectively. On the other side of the scale, service companies (e.g. dry cleaners) make up a much smaller proportion of our high streets at just 0.25 per cent. This was followed closely by automotive services and recreational establishments like gyms, both of which also came in at less than one per cent.

Regional High Streets

Find out what the high streets in your region look 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
Book Shop, Electronics, Pet Shop etc.
34.30% 30.74% 19.39% 20.07% 28.80% 36.61% 41.77% 25.34% 23.21% 29.57% 39.94% 30.32%
Coffee Shop, Tea Shop etc.
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
Bar, Club, Restaurant etc.
7.07% 6.56% 7.48% 16.16% 9.94% 7.10% 5.06% 10.86% 8.40% 9.03% 5.63% 8.24%
Butchers, Corner Shop, Supermarket etc.
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
Hairdressers, Nail Bar, Tanning etc.
7.65% 6.56% 6.79% 7.48% 5.27% 4.37% 4.75% 6.38% 4.69% 7.19% 3.44% 5.78%
Chiropractor, Massage, Opticians etc.
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
Subway, Takeaway etc.
2.55% 8.64% 8.17% 4.59% 2.43% 3.28% 2.22% 5.34% 4.94% 5.95% 3.13% 4.51%
Church, Dentist, Library etc.
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
Antiques, Furniture, Homeware etc.
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%
Arcade, Betting, Bingo etc.
2.20% 1.73% 3.74% 1.79% 2.03% 1.37% 1.90% 1.21% 3.21% 2.46% 2.19% 2.18%
Solicitors, Accountants, PR Agency etc.
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%
Hotel, Museum, Tourist Board etc.
0.46% 0.17% 0.28% 0.68% 1.83% 2.19% 1.58% 2.07% 0.99% 1.44% 1.56% 1.15%
Cinema, Gym, Gallery etc.
1.16% 0.00% 0.55% 1.53% 0.61% 0.27% 0.63% 0.52% 0.49% 0.41% 0.31% 0.56%
Taxi, Driving School, Car Rental etc.
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
Pawn Shop, Rent to Own etc.
0.46% 0.52% 1.52% 0.68% 0.81% 0.55% 0.32% 0.34% 0.49% 0.62% 0.63% 0.58%
Dry Cleaners etc.
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

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 retail, community services like libraries, and cafes amongst the most desirable businesses to have on your high street, with towns in Yorkshire coming top for retail, but in turn having the least community services available. Towns located in the East Midlands have the highest number of cafes per high street, compared to West Midlands who had the least.

Next, we looked at high streets with the highest proportion of pawn brokers, gambling shops and fast food outlets. Interestingly, the West Midlands had the highest proportion of pawn brokers and gambling shops as per our sample, with the East of England taking the title for most fast food establishments.

Independents vs. Chains

Research suggests that local independent shops are of high importance to British homeowners – 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 and 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.

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

Sources and Caveat

All high street data sourced from Google.
Data collated May 2019, high street shops correct as of 2018.
Consumer statistics sourced from *‘High Street Rebooted Report’ and ‘The Times – The Future of Retail Report’