How many independent retailers are there in the UK? #indieretail

There is a vast array of retail businesses across the UK, ranging from the smaller one-store retailers to the mighty multi-store giants. Trying to pinpoint exactly how many of each is a tricky task – the many facets of the retail industry are continually changing, and each town and city frequently sees the coming and going of various businesses.

What is an independent retailer?

Firstly, we need to ask, “What is an independent retailer?

In the UK, the term ‘independent retailer’ is rather vague. It covers larger companies – such as Wilkinsons, Ann Summers and Specsavers – and smaller ones, which are owner-operated more likely to have very few retail outlets.

In this post, I’ll be looking at the latter – the SMEs in the UK who have the potential to develop into larger independents or multiple retailers.

How many Independent retailers are therein the UK?

Unfortunately, no authority seems to be able to give a definitive answer to how many independent retailers there are. In fact, there isn’t even an accurate number of SMEs in the UK – the industry is changing so quickly that there is never a correct answer.

Some organisations can give a rough idea though.

The British Chambers of Commerce said there were 273,000 retail businesses and 137,000 wholesalers in total in 2012. The British Retail Consortium claims that there are 189,280 retailers running 287,100 outlets.

Plenty of other authorities have tried to place the number – Independents Day, Local Data Company, FSB…the list goes on.

The British Independent Retailers Association states there are more than 220,000 independent retailers across the nation, around 7,000 of which are its members. It also says that last year, 15,908 independent retailers opened and 15,182 closed.

That last statistic quite easily explains the confusion. Many claim that more than 300 shops close on our high streets every week, and judging by bira’s data, more than that open in the same period!

Rate of retail openings and retail closures

As well as the huge quantity of shops opening and closing, it’s worth remembering that sole traders aren’t listed at Companies House and so probably aren’t included in statistics.

Most of all, it appears that statistics fail to capture the rise of online shopping. There are perhaps up to one million online sellers now – we know for sure online sales now account for more than 10% of total sales in the UK.

Most online sellers could very well be independent retailers but the scope of their businesses may lead them to run differently to “normal” shops – different opening hours, extra income.

I personally think that trying to define the exact number of independent retailers is a bit of a minefield – but at least the numbers are growing. That’s one thing that everybody agrees on!

Where can I find independent retailers?

Despite the plethora of information out there, here at the Support for Independent Retail campaign, we’ve been collecting information on an online directory to establish the number of independent retailers.

Independent Shops allows customers to find independent shops in a certain area, while the retailers themselves can add their details and become part of the growing database.

We’re even working on improving the directory in the coming months to provide more search categories and terms. Take a look at to find out more…!

indie shops full logo


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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