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The Best UK Cities for Small Businesses

Glasgow city

Two recent studies have revealed the top cities for independent retailers and for siting your small business if you’re a millennial. The results may surprise you.

The city most welcoming of independent retailers: Glasgow

A study conducted in December by business finance provider Liberis showed that Glasgow was the most welcoming city for independent retailers, hitting the top spot in several categories. It had the highest number of independent pubs and newsagents/off licenses and came second in the food and restaurants categories.

The top 10 most welcoming cities for independents were:

  1. Glasgow
  2. Leicester
  3. Manchester
  4. Birmingham
  5. London
  6. Liverpool
  7. Norwich
  8. Nottingham
  9. Bristol
  10. Edinburgh

The company’s study found that over 8 million Brits always opt to shop at small independents and actively avoid spending their money at big chains. In comparison, 31.6 million admitted that they regularly shop at the big chains and spend at local businesses every now and then.

Who are the independent shoppers?

It seems Liverpool residents are most likely to shop at independents—in fact, Liverpool ladies between 24 and 34 were shown to be the biggest supporters of local businesses—while Bristolians are most likely to shop at big chains.

Regardless of location, there’s a gender divide: Libris found that women are more likely to shop at independents, whereas men are more likely to choose big chains. Age is also a factor. Most likely to shop at independents? 25-34-year-olds. Most likely to shop at big chains? The over-65s.

Rob Straathof, chief executive of Liberis, said:

“It was interesting to see that the north of England and Scotland made up the majority of the top ten.”

“The younger generation came out as the most supportive consumers for small businesses – a promising sign for the future of our high streets.”

However, some stats changed when people were asked about buying for Christmas: women were predominantly heading to big chains to do the Christmas food shop. However, younger people still seemed to favour independent retailers for both festive food and gifts and the over 65s stayed true to form, saying they planned to buy all their festive necessities from big names.

Although nearly 6 million were planning to do their food shopping at independent retailers this year, most were planning to use a mixture of local businesses and the big chains.

Bristolians were more likely to head to an independent retailer for their mince pies, while Norwich residents were going to the big stores. When it comes to Christmas gift buying, independent retailers in Belfast see the biggest spend.

The city that’s best for millennials starting a business: Leicester

However, according to new research from online business print providers, instantprint, Leicester is the place to be if you’re a millennial and entrepreneur.

James Kinsella, chief executive and co-founder of Instantprint, said:

“As a millennial start-up company ourselves, we understand how daunting deciding where to set up your business can be – especially if you haven’t had much time in the workplace to build up capital resources and a great network of potential contacts.

“We cater for small start-up businesses and wanted to help our current and future client base by providing this research, highlighting great opportunities for their companies.”

Their study analysed the average age, number of start-ups per 1,000 people and the cost of living in the 20 biggest UK cities, taking into account research into what’s important for millennials and the challenges they face when starting a business. This meant they factored in the cost of office space, train reliability, recycling rates, superfast broadband availability and the average price of a cup of coffee to produce the top ten.

Their top ten cities were:

  1. Leicester
  2. Derby
  3. Belfast
  4. Nottingham
  5. Portsmouth
  6. Southampton
  7. Hull
  8. Coventry
  9. Cardiff
  10. Edinburgh

“It’s great to see that some of the less well-known cities in the UK are offering great opportunities for small businesses,” said James Kinsella.

“Leicester is a great place to set up your business and this is reflected in the activity in the city, which includes an annual business festival that gets 10,000 attendees.”

It’s interesting that only Leicester, Nottingham and Edinburgh make it into both top 10s, and that London isn’t in the top 10 cities for millennials to site their start-ups—doubtless due primarily to its expensive office space.

Which cities do you feel make a great home for small businesses, and why? Please share your thoughts below.

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