Where Are Manchester's Fashion Independents?

THE food and fashion industries are revelling in this techy digital age.

Truth is, it's the high rents that's killing us

Both are benefiting from the internet breeding of eagle-eyed Instagrammers, discerning bloggers and twitchy-fingered tweeters with an opinion to voice and a hashtag to share. Nearly half of consumers now shop online for clothes (online sales reached £5.6bn in 2014) and hospitality businesses have latched onto 'brand awareness' gained from social communication. 

Consequently, as Health and Beauty Editor of Manchester’s leading city magazine with a heavy focus on food and drink, life tends to revolve around those two areas in digital land. I've witnessed both bellowing 'technology is the future', yet with one major difference: online is killing our physical high-street, while restaurants are thriving. 

Today when it comes to bricks and mortar business, food is the far sexier, fashionable investment.

According to CRBE, restaurant and food outlet numbers are now 258% higher than in 1998 (8% annual average growth rate) with a total of 17,450 chain branches in operation across the country.

This growth is far above the increase in number of other retailers and shops which are now 50% higher than in 1998 (3% annual average growth). (See full report).

Arguably, no other city displays this better than Manchester. 

Food is having a renaissance in the city - I’m sure you might have noticed. The restaurant-openings-upon-restaurant-openings say it all. We're all so very social now. So very 'foodie'. 

Yet what has this meant for Manchester's independent fashion boutiques? In fact, where have they all disappeared to?

Let's consider the Corn Exchange, once home to the sleepy (downright comatose) fashion quarter, The Triangle. Following a £30m investment, it will soon re-emerge as a huge food hall complete with hotel later this year. They'll be no fashion focus. Spinningfield's The Avenue is similarly giving up on fashion in favour of food. There's a trend emerging here.