The imminent closure of Borderline Records in Gardner Street and its replacement by a café is a portent of a national trend. It has nothing to do with the demise of independent record shops.
A growing trend in recent years has been for chain stores to abandon high streets and independents to take the spaces vacated by them. The number of independents has risen every year for the past five years but the nature of the newcomers is radically altering the retail environment.
Service companies are starting to dominate the start-ups retail outlets; tattoo studios, hair & beauty, nail bars and cafes are delivering things that can’t be bought on line and don’t warrant a special trip to an out-of-town shopping mall.
The tough retail climate is even taking its toll on the service providers with net new openings narrowing considerably since 2010. According to research by The Local Data Company, in that year the number of independent shops opening exceeded the closures by a healthy 4%. In 2013 there were 15,908 openings compared to 15,182 closures; a margin of just 0.7%.
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Fifteen years ago the North Laine area of the city centre was a dizzying collection of the wild and the whacky; a shop selling crucifixes [the last one in England] right next to a leather bondage shop, a shop the size of a phone box selling cigarette cards, shops selling goods from France, Mexico, Poland and Africa. Slowly increasing rents and rates saw them disappear and in recent years cafes and coffee shops have proliferated.
It is very uncertain how sustainable that is.
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