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The UK is a nation of shopkeepers no longer

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Traditional high street businesses are in decline, finds Dr Tim Leunig of LSE's Economic History Department.

Dr Leunig has analysed the figures of The Yellow Pages Alternative Census, a ten-year study launched today (Tuesday 3 August).

The Yellow Pages Alternative Census is the first ever study of business growth and decline within key Yellow Pages business classifications from 1992 to 2002. Dr Leunig found that aromatherapy, cosmetic surgery and dieting and weight control are the UK's most booming business sectors. Other results were that:

  • Eight out of ten of the sharpest declines are in industries associated with the High Street or the countryside.
  • By contrast, seven of the ten classifications registering the highest increases come from professions catering for beauty and body image, or alternative therapy and stress relief.
  • Greengrocers suffered the greatest percentage decrease of classification listings during the ten years studied, down by 59 per cent, followed by butchers (-40 per cent), hardware retailers (-34 per cent), farmers (-29 per cent), gamekeepers (-21 per cent), bakers (-20 per cent) and carpenters and joiners (-16 per cent).

While traditional high street services entries are down, lifestyle classifications have registered phenomenal growth.

  • Aromatherapy listings increased by 5,200 per cent, with cosmetic surgery (+1,780 per cent), dieting and weight control (+1,445 per cent), make up artists and services (+1007 per cent), reflexology (+829 per cent), Alexander Technique - the self improvement method - (+724 per cent) and saunas and sunbeds (+299 per cent).
  • Mental wellbeing is also becoming increasingly important. Entries for psychotherapy and analysis have increased by 204 per cent since 1992 while demand for counselling and advice saw a 93 per cent rise.
  • The number of therapists listed has nearly doubled, and the number of hypnotherapists has risen by 129 per cent.

Dr Leunig, lecturer in economic history, said: 'Just as changes to the Oxford English Dictionary reflect the evolution of language, changes to the classifications in Yellow Pages reflect the evolution of business and are an equally valid tool for social scientists.

'In the last ten years businesses have responded to the new opportunities arising from rising incomes and new technologies. But if we're no longer a nation of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, what are we? It seems we've not only moved beyond the basic necessities of life, but almost beyond goods themselves, so the areas of growth are things that make us feel better about ourselves. Rather than trying to keep up with the Jones's, we're running to keep up with ourselves and with the pressures of modern life.'

  • Read a full press release on the study (Link - no longer available)


For further information please contact:

  • The RED Consultancy: Jon Cope, tel: 020 7465 6415 or Simon Bear, tel: 020 7465 6415
  • The Yell PR Department: Susannah Finn, tel: 0118 950 6650, or Emma Smailes, tel: 0118 950 6444.

Press cuttings

Observer (24 Oct 04)
It's the modern world, so don't get a life: get a life coach
Reference to research by Dr Tim Leunig, LSE.

Ananova (4 Aug 04)
Greengrocers 'lose out to aromatherapists' 
Britain is losing its greengrocers and hardware stores as aromatherapists and image consultants take over instead, a survey claims. Dr Tim Leunig, LSE, quoted.

The Mirror (4 Aug 04)
Yellow Ages
Changing lifestyle of Britain. Reference to the study by Dr Tim Leunig, professor in economic history at LSE.

The Western Mail (3 Aug 04)
Feel-good now just the business, Yellow Pages finds  

Daily Star (3 Aug 04)
P 11. Smelly vision 
A study of Yellow Pages entries over the last 10 years show how lifestyles have changed as we swing towards healthier living. Dr Tim Leunig said: 'The areas of growth are things that make us feel better about ourselves.' 

Daily Mail (3 Aug 04)
Goodbye greengrocers, hello aromatherapists 

Guardian (3 August 04)
The new Yellow Pages: goodbye greengrocers, hello cosmetic surgeons

Changing lifestyles over the past decade have seen greengrocers and butchers replaced by aromatherapists and mobile phones, according to a report published today. Dr Tim Leunig, professor in economic history at LSE, quoted. Also mentioned in The Times Online, Scotsman, The Herald and Daily Telegraph. 

Daily Telegraph (3 August 04)
Bakers fight for a crust in New Age high street

The Times (3 August 04)
Ologists and therapists flourishing as Britain preens itself

The Scotsman (3 August 04)
Phone book entries ring changes in lifestyle

The Herald (3 August 04)
Greengrocers are out and aromatherapy is in

3 August 2004