The number of new independent stores opening halved in the first six months of 2013, but the c-store sector bucked the trend.

According to new research from the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA), the net increase in independent stores dropped from 0.8% (852 units) in the first six months of 2012 to 0.4% (424 units) in the same period of 2013.

Within convenience retail, the number of stores over the period grew by 1.4% (123 units), compared to 0.75% in 2012.

Overall, 8,769 units opened and 8,345 closed during the period, with health and beauty, financial services, pawnbrokers and estate agents seeing the highest level of growth.

London and the South East suffered the highest number of independent store closures while Wales saw the strongest level of growth.

Despite the modest growth, Michael Weedon, BIRA deputy chief executive, urged action to prevent independent stores closing.

“Independents are leading the change in our town centres,” he said. “In fact they are the best hope that our high streets have. But the margin between openings and closings, between vibrant health and sickness in the town centre environment is just 0.4% in the first half of this year, far too fine a margin for comfort and one that is all too easily reversed,” he said.

“To save our town centres as sustainable social and economic entities we need to keep open the independents that are already there and encourage more to open – they have already demonstrated that they do this even in tough times. Hitting them with a further £200m or more in business rates in April next year won’t help that, any more than the £175m blow that landed this year.”