The number of independent high street stores opening in the first half of 2017 has increased dramatically compared with the same period last year, according to the Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA).

Independent shops saw an increase of 762 stores during the half year (H1), compared with a net increase of just four shops for the same period last year. Convenience stores saw a net increase of 82 units in H1 2017, an increase of 1.43% compared with H1 2016.

The data also revealed that chain retailers continue to see a fall in store numbers, with a net loss of 659 shops in H1 2017, compared with a loss of 2,001 shops in H1 2016.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at Local Data Company, said: “The first half of 2017 has seen remarkable growth in the opening of independent shops and food and beverage outlets across Great Britain, with a net increase of +762 new trading stores. This is significant in what is a challenging environment and where many chain retailers are closing stores.

“The internet, customisation and providing a personal service is something that will fuel the opening of independents on our high streets.

“History, however, tells us that independents also have the propensity to change rapidly from growth to decline due to the marginal nature of some businesses, shorter lease lengths and wider impacts of changes to the costs funding.”

The North West saw the greatest increase in independent stores, with net unit change of 230 in H1 2017, compared with 14 units in H1 2016. However, the South West showed the greatest decline in independents, with a net loss of 29 units in the first half of 2017.

During the first half of this year and the first half of 2016, independents accounted for 65% of all retail and leisure units in Great Britain.

Alan Hawkins, ceo of the British Independent Retailers Association, said: “It’s good to see independents, and the high street in particular, leading the way in net unit growth for the first half of 2017. The courage and we hope skill of the independent entrepreneurial spirit will fly long after the prophets of doom are silent.”