The evolution of the British high street

Thu 26th September 2019
News, Trends
  • Cafes and tearooms are the fourth fastest growing retail category in the UK
  • Recovery Road from 365 Business Finance highlights the changing face of the high street
  • 365 Business Finance celebrating five years of funding British retailers

Current data, analysed by 365 Business Finance, shows that barbers, beauty salons, vape stores, cafes and tearooms, along with restaurants and bars have been the fastest growing retail sectors in the UK over the past three years.

These retailers have consistently experienced the highest number of net store openings in 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to the Local Data Company.

Putting this all into context, London-based financier 365 Business Finance has created a virtual high street, Recovery Road, to demonstrate the changing face of the retail industry in the UK.

The company is celebrating five years of supporting small to medium sized businesses and provides merchant cash advances to independent retailers that are helping to keep our British high streets alive.

By reviewing statistics on the five fastest growing retail categories, the reasons why they have taken a foothold despite the difficult climate become apparent. Recovery Road acts as an interactive guide, showing how British retail and the high street has the potential to evolve with independent businesses at the helm. Key Recovery Road stats include:

  • The number of clean shaven men has fallen almost 20% in the last five years[source], which might explain why barber shops have been the number one fastest growing category for all three years [source] [source] [source].
  • The 31,107[source] beauty salons that currently operate in the UK have witnessed a 28% increase in salon openings since 2017 [source]. Additionally, Londoners spend an average of £470 per month compared to a national average of just over £96 [source].
  • Even though vape stores have experienced a 35% decrease in the net number of units opened between 2017 and 2018 [source], they were still the third fastest growing category in 2018. This comes at a time when 48% of people who use an e-cigarette say they do so as an aid to giving up in a declining world of adult smokers [source].
  • Cafes and tearooms experienced a 46% increase in the number of net openings between 2016-2017 - the largest number of net openings in that year. This is concurrent with a wider trend over the last decade as the number of coffee shops has increased by 140% [source]. Research shows that 24-35 year olds are the biggest growing consumer demographic among tea drinkers [source].
  • Despite high-profile appearances in the media,restaurants and bars were the fourth fastest growing retail category in 2018 [source]. Independent restaurants make up 68% of sales [source] out of the £89.5 billion dining out market [source]. Demand for finance* by restaurants has also increased by 100% so far in 2019. 


After showing the fastest growing categories, the Recovery Road timeline walks you through the British high street from 2008 to 2018, detailing the appearance and disappearance of some well-known retail stores.

The timeline lists 46 retailers across five categories, ‘buy out’, ‘ceased trading’, ‘restructuring’, ‘clicks-to-bricks’ and ‘offline-online partnerships’. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it charts how the landscape of the high street has changed over a 10-year period. As the timeline progresses, it is clear to see how new retail players have made their mark on the high street by developing new business models and concepts. 

365 Business Finance Managing Director, Andrew Raphaely, comments, “Recovery Road offers a fascinating glimpse into the changing face of the British high street. Despite some well-loved household names disappearing, there’s been positive news for the independent retailers and businesses that have gone from strength to strength.

“As a result of the increase in their numbers and ambitions, we’ve seen a significant rise in demand for merchant cash advances to fuel the growth of these businesses, meeting their need for fast, flexible and affordable finance.”

365 Business Finance funds UK businesses with merchant cash advances from £5,000 to £200,000. Eligible businesses must have been trading for six months and take at least £5,000 per month in debit and credit card transactions.

*Merchant cash advance according to 365 Business Finance

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