Independent bakers shops are showing an unexpected 6% growth by filling empty sites on the high street.
Figures from research firm The Local Data Company reveal a closure rate of 4.1% in the second half of 2009, but an opening rate of 9.9%. These companies, with less than five shops, have fared better than the multiple bakery chains, which saw their number of stores fall by 0.5%.
The rise is in contrast to 2008 figures; the Office for National Statistics reported a net loss of 215 bakery retail businesses over the year to March 2009, with smaller businesses dropping from 3,355 to 3,140 shops.
National Association of Master Bakers chairman Mike Holling said it was positive news: "If it’s true, the industry should see it as very encouraging. There is enthusiasm out there from people wanting to start their own bakery business, but setting one up can cost anywhere between £50,000 and £100,000 and banks are reluctant to lend at the moment."
The Local Data Company’s business development director Matthew Hopkinson said the recession had meant that landlords were keen to get businesses in, which meant there were low rents to be had. "The market is in the retailers’ favour and consumers increasingly want to shop locally for fresh ingredients."
He added: "When Tesco Metro and Sainsbury’s Local open in a high street, they increase footfall and, because they don’t have in-store bakeries, if your shop is nearby, you will probably do well, as long as you’ve got a good offer, a fair price and local products."
But Hopkinson admitted that new openings had centred more on the south east and London, where some of the more upmarket artisan bakeries were proving successful. And he added: "This might just be a blip as we have yet to see the impact of business rates on small firms."
The firm studies 705 towns and cities across the UK, tracking 1,200 independent bakers.