An estimated record 10,000 new retail businesses were launched in 2014 compared to 2013 according to Creditsafe, a company providing information on the health of businesses.
The new retail start-ups included shops, online retailers, cafes and restaurants and the development was being interpreted as a sign that entrepreneurs are leading the economic recovery partly because retail is seen as a major indicator of consumer confidence.
However, it remains to be seen how many of these fledgling businesses are still trading in 12 months’ time and whether this is indeed a case of entrepreneurs seizing opportunities or whether it is in fact a response to the lack of alternative opportunities.
It has been clear for some years following 2008 that retail is a volatile sector and has been in the throes of huge changes. While there are positives in the rise of the “shop local” initiatives aimed at supporting independent small traders, there has also been evidence that people have become very cost conscious and cautious in spending with smaller but more frequent trips to the shops.
Online shopping and a disenchantment with major High Street chains and edge of town superstores may indeed be a positive sign for the 10,000 fledgling retailers, but they will need to be very canny about pricing, marketing and controlling cash flow to survive.
We await the January post mortem on retail trade during Christmas and New Year, but already it looks like 2015 is going to be an interesting year.