‘Indie Street’ – report calls for more support for independent retail sector

Umesh Patel, proprietor of Gossip, an independent accessories and fashion store located in Central Arcade

A new report highlighting the key role of Leeds’ independent retail sector in maintaining the vibrancy and attractiveness of the city centre will be launched at an event taking place at Old Broadcasting House on Thursday 25 April 2013, 5.30-7pm.

The report, based on research commissioned by Leeds City Council’s economic development service and Leeds Metropolitan University, argues that the sector is a key ingredient of the city’s distinctive and diverse retail offer.

It points to the opening of Trinity Leeds, the proposed Victoria Gate development and the redevelopment of Kirkgate Market as presenting significant opportunities for the city’s strong independent retail sector to develop and expand.

The report calls on business support organisations to extend their reach to help more independent retail businesses prosper and grow, as rising costs and the growth of online sales continue to squeeze the high street.

Landlords also need to work more closely with tenants to promote their businesses, according to the report, and independent retail should be more strongly promoted as part of the city’s wider offer as a visitor destination.

Katie Rigarlsford, operations manager at QU2, Leeds Metropolitan University’s business incubator, said:

“Rising costs, fierce competition and growth of internet sales have taken a heavy toll on the UK high street, with independent retailers coming under increasing pressure.

“There’s a real need for traditional business support in the form of mentoring and financial advice, together with more sector-specific support with things like merchandising, customer service and in-store promotion.

“We also need to do more to promote business incubators to provide test trading opportunities, such as pop up shops, as well as low cost and flexible business premises for start up retailers. And there’s clearly an opportunity for independent retailers to make greater use of social media and e-commerce to grow their businesses and Leeds Met is in a great position to help with this through our enterprise office.”

A survey carried out as part of the research project showed that only 30 per cent of businesses surveyed had used any of the services provided by business support organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Business or the British Independent Retailers Association.

Independent traders interviewed by the research team said they also want training and advice on e-commerce and online promotion; more to be done to increase footfall to those areas of the city where their businesses are clustered; and links made with city centre festivals and promotion of the city’s independent retail sector as part of its offer and a tourism and visitor destination.

The report points to a number of initiatives set up to provide a platform for the city’s independent retail sector, which provide a model that could be used to grow the sector:

- Fabrication, a social enterprise operating from a pop up shop in The Light, which supports micro craft and fashion businesses

- Birds Yard, located on Kirkgate, which provides an outlet for independent fashion designers in Leeds

- Made in Leeds, the new store at Trinity Leeds which showcases the local fashion industry and talents of artists and designers

The report also calls for more support for independent retail within town and district centres across Leeds, where local shops and enterprise provide an important focus for communities.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for development and economy said:

“Leeds is the UK’s third largest centre for retail employment, with around 8% of the city’s workforce employed in the sector, but as we have seen in recent months, it is a fiercely competitive environment and there have been many high profile casualties.

“Independent retailers make a major contribution to the city’s vibrancy and attractiveness. We need to support their entrepreneurial flair and, if we are going to reverse the trend of recent years, create more opportunities for independent and small traders to open new shops and succeed, both in the city centre and in local communities.”


Additional info
Recommendations included in the report are based on research undertaken between November 2012 and March 2013. The report was commissioned jointly by Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University.

1. Key findings of the report:

• There are around 200 independent retail outlets in Leeds city centre, in addition to over 250 independent retail businesses in Kirkgate Market. Just over half of these are primary retailers, 25% are food outlets and the other 20% provide a range of personal services.

• Independent retailers are clustered in ‘pockets’ around The Calls, Kirkgate Market, Central Arcade, the Corn Exchange and Kirkgate Market.

• Only 30 per cent of independent retailers surveyed had used any of the services provided by business support organisations

• While 61% of shop owners and online retailers make active use of social media, only 10% of shop owners actively use e-commerce as part of their business

• Nearly three quarters would like training and assistance in developing e-commerce facilities. This includes those who are already have an online presence.

• 69% of those surveyed think Leeds is a good city for independent retail

2. Case studies:

A number of independent retailers were interviewed as part of the research project and a selection of case studies are included in the main report. Media interviews can be arranged on request:

• Umesh Patel, proprietor of Gossip, an independent accessories and fashion store located in Central Arcade.

• Lisa Proctor, proprietor of World of Dance, a gymnastics and dance wear retailer, recently relocated from the Victoria Quarter to Central Arcade.

• Beverley Zimmerman, owner of Memphis Belle, specialist fashion retailer stocking 40s and 50s fashions and a wide range of jewellery, fashions.

For media enquiries, please contact;
David Baggaley, Leeds City Council (0113) 247 7851
Email: david.baggaley@leeds.gov.uk