More new independent convenience stores have opened than those of multiple groups in the first half of 2016, new research from PwC complied by The Local Data Company (LDC) shows.

Independents, defined as four stores or fewer, opened 144 convenience stores in major shopping areas in Great Britain between January and July, and closed 98, giving a net openings figure of 46.

Multiples, defined as five stores or more, opened 60 and closed 57, giving a net openings figure of just 3, according to the analysis of the country’s top 500 town centres.

The convenience sector overall thrashed a raft of specialist shops in terms of net openings, such as bakeries, butchers, card & poster shops, cash & carries, cheese, shops, chocolatiers, confectioners, petrol filling stations and supermarkets, for example.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson told C-Store the ability of independent convenience operators to meet more ethnically diverse communities had served them well as well as had their ability to open in tertiary locations cost effectively thanks to the larger number of vacant units.

Hopkinson said such independents were better able to target a specific demographic and culture. “You’ve seen chains trying to catch up with this by having certain sections, in say a Tesco convenience store, which is specific to Polish or Chinese.

“If you are in a community and you provide the service and the products at a fair and reasonable price with long opening hours then I think you can stand to do very well and I think that is probably what people are doing.”

Hopkinson said the more the government invested in housebuilding, the more opportunity there would be for people who lived locally to open convenience stores locally.

Serving such locations was more costly for multiples to keep stocked. “I think it’s tricky for the multiples. They will have a format that fits a particular space but not all space is the right shape and the right size,” explained Hopkinson.

A net 503 shops disappeared from high streets, retail parks and shopping centres in the first half of the year – the highest net declined since the first half of 2012 which 953 more stores closed than opened.

Madeleine Thomson, retail and consumer leader at PwC, said: “To increase footfall to their stores, it is key for retailers to ensure their in-store offering and price point is relevant for the younger demographic who are particularly high users of online channels and very price savvy.”