The UK has seen huge rise in the number of independent businesses being set up over the past year. New analysis from The University of Law Business school shows 854,948 independent businesses have been established since 23rd March 2020, representing a 43% increase compared to the same period a year before (594,957). 

With London expectedly ranking first, after 239,066 new businesses were registered in the last year, research1 by  ULaw Business School reveals the cities outside of the capital, where new business is booming. 

Top 10 start up cities outside of London  

Boasting 20,222 new registered business, Birmingham is the start-up capital of the UK outside London. The midlands city has nearly twice as many businesses registered within the last 12 months than 70% of its closest rivals around the country, including Leicester (9,429), Leeds (9,340) and Liverpool (8,490) 

The city hosts range of indie businesses, such as supermarket concept, Roots Market, supplying locally sourced food, natural vitamins and body care products since December 2020.2 

Giving credit to the northManchester follows closely behind with 18,313 new businesses established since 23rd March 2020. The Northern Quarter is home to a variety of small businesses, including the cities first health and wellbeing café, Feel Good Club, which opened in summer 2020.3 

Glasgow (11,124), Leicester and Leeds are next to rank, keeping the north of the UK in the top spots. The three cities are home to hundreds of independent boutiques, salons and food vendors. The Savvy Baker in Leeds went viral with her online brownie boxes, raking in 40,000 Instagram followers, and has since set up pop-up stores and hired six full-time staff to help with demand.4 

The top 10 most popular cities to set up a new business outside of London are:  

  1. Birmingham (20,222) 

  2. Manchester (18,313) 

  3. Glasgow (11,124) 

  1. Leicester (9,429) 

  2. Leeds (9,340) 

  3. Bristol (8,768) 

  4. Liverpool (8,490) 

  5. Nottingham (7,044) 

  1. Sheffield (5,237) 

  2. Coventry (5,062) 

Most popular sectors 

Since high-street stores were closed for long periods, it comes as no surprise that online retail business has seen a dramatic increase during the pandemic. Since 23rd March 2020, which was the day the UK went into its first national lockdown, 47,729 retail businesses (via mail order or internet) have been registered, making it the most popular sector for new, independent ventures. 

Working in real estate has also proved popular, with the buyingselling and leasing of real estate ranking 2nd and 4th respectively, with Rishi Sunak’s announcement of the Stamp Duty holiday having a big impact.5 

Management consultancy took the third position, as businesses run remotely have surged in popularity since the start of the pandemic. 

The top 10 most popular start up sectors in the UK in the last year are: 

  1. Online retail (47,729) 

  2. Buying and selling of real estate (33,537) 

  3. Management Consultancy (30,130) 

  1. Letting and operating leased real estate (28,598) 

  2. Freight transport by road (20,539) 

  3. Development of building projects (17,369) 

  4. Takeaway and mobile food (17,050) 

  5. IT Consultancy (16,138) 

  1. Construction of domestic buildings (13,658) 

  2. Beauty treatments (12,816) 


Marco Mongiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Law Business School, commented: Despite such challenging times, the nation hafound a way to bring independent business back into the heart of these cities and shown real entrepreneurial spirit. 

 Some of the UK’s biggest cities that were once flooded with huge chains are now thriving off independent business; it’s heart-warming to see the support that the country has for each other. 

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we support these local businesses whether that be food shops, beauty salons or tradesmen. The University of Law Business School offers courses for any budding entrepreneur to take the next steps towards running their own successful business.” 

To find out more about The University of Law Business School, please visit: 


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