The number of independent retailers across Scotland is expected to increase faster than any other part of the UK over the next five years, according to new research.
In a sign of shifting consumer loyalty towards smaller, local retailers, the number of independent shops looks set to experience net growth of 5.1 per cent by 2023.
The analysis, carried out by retail expert GlobalData, predicted a boom in the amount of toys and games retailers, with another major spike in the amount of beauty and hair salons and tattoo parlours across the country.
However, it said the biggest growth will be in so-called “escape rooms”, which task teams with solving physical and mental puzzles. There are only a handful at present in Scotland, but GlobalData’s study predicted the sector will experience growth of 81 per cent by 2023.
While Scotland is home to more vacant high street units than anywhere else in UK, the new research, commissioned by American Express, indicated that the fortunes of independent retailers are on the up, particularly in Scotland, given net growth across the UK over the same period is forecast to hit just 0.3 per cent.
GlobalData said that changing demands of consumers were reshaping Britain’s high streets, and described the modest growth expected among independent retailers as “encouraging news”.
Other specific areas it pinpointed as key growth areas include entertainment services – such as independent cinemas, ice rinks, and bowling alleys – which look set to grow by 17 per cent by 2023.
Hair and beauty businesses, which include tanning salons, are expected to increase in number by 16 per cent, while health and fitness outlets, such as health clubs and gyms, will enjoy growth of 15 per cent.
As part of the research, GlobalData also polled 2,250 consumers to identify their shopping habits.
Some 62 per cent of people questioned cited a desire for “experiences” and being able to buy items not easily available online as important reasons for frequenting independent retailers.
Maureen Hinton, global retail research director at GlobalData, said: “What’s encouraging about this research is that it shows modern high streets are evolving to keep pace with consumer demands.
“The growth of online has also made the high street’s role as a service-led, social space increasingly important, encouraging the rise of hybrid businesses, with shops, gyms and cinemas now often boasting their own bars, coffee shops and restaurants.
Ms Hinton added: “There is no doubt that the high street is in a period of unprecedented change, but the rise of new businesses such as these demonstrates that this is as much an opportunity as a challenge.”