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Bristol and Cheltenham among the strongest for independent retail

The Business Magazine article image for: Bristol and Cheltenham among the strongest for independent retail
10 May 2022

New research by South Western Railway has revealed that Bristol and Cheltenham are among the top 10 UK towns and cities where independent retail is strongest.

The railway operator analysed data from Indie Retail to investigate where independent retail is strongest in the UK, and which sectors are leading the independent shopping landscape.

Supporting independent retailers is an essential part of British culture that puts money back into local economies and communities. The desire from Brits to shop independently only grows as Google searches for terms including ‘independent bike shops’ and ‘independent bookstores’ have soared 270 per cent and 376 per cent in the UK since 2018.

To find the UK’s independent shopping capitals, South Western Railway took the total number of independent shops in each town and city according to Indie Retail and compared this against population figures to reveal where is home to the highest number of indie retailers per 100,000 people

While Cambridge claims the title of the UK’s independent shopping capital, as it offers 35 independent shops per 100,000 people, Bristol and Cheltenham came in fifth and seventh respectively, and Bristol topped the chart boasting 72 independent retailers in total, with Cheltenham having 17.

The analysis reveals that cycling and literary stores toped the sector list, with food and drink – with nearly 800 venues, music and gifts also popular for independent retailers.

Despite the streaming revolution, 280 independent music stores can be found up and down the UK. Being the fourth most popular sector overall, this is supported by a renewed interest in old-fashioned mediums of music with searches for ‘independent record shops’ seeing a dramatic increase of 267 per cent from 2018-2022.

Calli Ward, Head of Marketing at South Western Rail said: "Nothing beats getting to know a city through the businesses and people that make it what it is. Being able to give back by supporting small, independent retailers is so important, no matter where you are in the UK."

Independents' Day is the national campaign to celebrate and promote the UK's independent retailers on 4th July.


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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