Welcome to your weekly digest of need-to-know business news, brought to you by Countingup.

1. Independent retailers boom as chains flee High Street

Independent retail and food businesses are snapping up property left vacant on UK High Streets and in retail parks, after the closure of thousands of chain stores.

Why does this matter?

A net total of more than 800 independent retail businesses opened during the first half of 2021, according to figures from the Local Data Company

This contrasts with a net loss of 5,251 chain stores during the same period. This represents a major shift in the character of the UK High Street, and could mean a new phase of recovery for small businesses.

What do I need to do?
If you’re looking for commercial property, you can benefit from the current buyers’ market. Landlords are keen to offload vacant property, so be ready to negotiate hard for lower rents and better terms. If you run a retail business you may also benefit from the business rates relief scheme, which can save you thousands.

2. £600m lent by government to businesses outside London – and more is on offer

The Start Up Loans scheme has now lent more than £600m to small businesses outside London, with the North West, South East, and Yorkshire and The Humber being the biggest beneficiaries.

Why does this matter?
The government says that Start Up Loans have helped thousands of businesses secure finance that they would otherwise not have been able to secure. According to the British Business Bank, the 600 millionth pound was lent to a woodworker in County Down.

What do I need to do?
Loans are still available under the Start Up Loans scheme. The Chancellor announced last year that the Start Up Loans programme was being expanded, with 1,000 more loans available in 2021/22 than previously forecast. Businesses can borrow up to £25,000, and will also be offered mentoring and training. If you’re interested,read more on the Start Up Loans website.

Read more:
Can I get a business loan with bad credit?
How does the UK government support small businesses?

3. Energy price crisis – what you need to do now

The UK energy market is in crisis, with skyrocketing prices forcing factories to close and a number of energy suppliers going bust.

Why does this matter?
High energy prices have knock-on effects throughout manufacturing and the supply chain. Some factories, including those making steel and fertiliser, have paused work because the cost of electricity makes it unprofitable for them to continue. The National Grid has been forced to warm up the UK’s last remaining coal power stations, paying more than £80 million just to keep the lights on during one day last week.

What do I need to do?
If you have commercial premises (or if you work from home), check that your energy supplier is still in operation. A number of smaller suppliers have already collapsed in recent days, and more are expected to follow. You should be notified if your supplier goes bust, or you can check on the Citizens Advice website. If you work in manufacturing, trades, or retail, you should be making preparations for a long period of significant disruption and volatility, as energy prices, supply chain issues, Brexit fallout, and the ongoing pandemic all converge.