Hair and beauty salons, tattoo and piercing shops and funeral directors are booming on the UK’s high streets amid concerns for the future of some major retailers, a study by Which? has found.
Many high streets are moving away from being “carbon copies of one another” towards a model familiar to older generations with flourishing personal services, markets, and food specialists, according to analysis by the consumer group.
Which? analysed almost 1.5 million Ordnance Survey (OS) records to compare Britain’s retail and services landscape from 2014 to 2019, finding that businesses offering personal services that cannot be replicated easily online are thriving.
Of the 10 sectors that have seen an increase in premises on UK high streets, six are categorised as “eating out and services”, with the biggest increase since 2014 seen in banqueting and function rooms (114%).
This was followed by markets, one of the few sectors categorised as a retailer in the top 10, which saw an increase of 52% between 2014 and 2019.
Tattooing and piercing services increased their presence on the high street by 44%, cafes, snack bars and tea rooms by 35% and hair and beauty services by 31%.
Of the 10 hardest hit sectors, only two were categorised as offering personal services, fast food delivery services ( down 50%) and internet cafes (down 36%).
The rest were categorised as retailers.
The hardest hit sector was book and map sellers, the first to be hit by the rise of Amazon, which saw a reduction of 70% over the five-year period.
Other sectors to suffer include computer shops (down 56%), shops selling second hand supplies (down 44%), electrical goods and components sellers (down 39%) and art and antique stores (down 41%).
Glasgow City saw the biggest growth in outlets categorised as ‘personal services’ in the five year period, with a 61% increase in premises of this kind.
Coastal towns Eastbourne and Hastings both saw considerable decreases in the number of retail outlets on their high streets, down 18% and 15% respectively, however both also saw significant increases in the presence of “personal service” businesses, both up by 41%.
While Torbay and Islington saw the biggest decreases in retail outlets over the same period, with both dropping by 20%, both also saw the number of personal services on their high streets increase by a quarter at 24% and 25% respectively.
A number of department stores and fashion chains have started offering hair and beauty services or coffee shops, and some also offer tattoo and piercing services within their stores, in an effort to keep pace with the changing high street landscape.
Computing, phone and electronic shops are also increasingly offering repair or advice services rather than simply being places to purchase goods.
Which? Magazine editor Harry Rose said: “While it’s concerning to have seen so many well-loved brands disappear from UK high streets in recent years, our research suggests the future of our town centres isn’t necessarily as bleak as the reports of store closures would have you believe.
“As shoppers needs and habits evolve, it’s vital that businesses keep up with these changing trends and consider how they can grow with them, in order to continue thriving on the high street.”