Are large coffee chains nearing the end of the road?

The UK coffee market is worth almost £10 billion, and large coffee chains have long been a feature of most high streets. In 2017, though, sales from chains fell for the very first time. Are independent coffee shops making a dent in the competition?

Costa, the best-known UK chain, puts the 1.5% dip in sales down to the fact that more and more of us are doing the majority of our shopping online rather than hitting the high street, and have no need to decompress over a coffee afterwards.

Meanwhile, market research specialists Allegra’s World Coffee Portal attributes the fall partly to the increase in independent coffee shops. Independents and small chains are now starting to think bigger in their approach, borrowing marketing ideas from their bigger rivals and setting up small stations in transit areas like airports and service areas.

Coffee shops fulfill community need

Coffee shops are continuing to increase in popularity, filling a community need and providing a safe, non-threatening environment for single women or families. The fact that they’re only open during daylight hours makes them feel secure, and now that we no longer meet by accident in small shops on the village high street they’re a safe space to relax and meet up with friends.

Independent coffee shops are often able to sell a higher quality of coffee and to offer an independent choice of food and snacks, which can change frequently to suit weather conditions and the season. As everything tends to be made in house, it’s also fresher and less processed. Although large chains are still ubiquitous on the UK high street, perhaps that’s set to change – leaving space for independents to really show what they can do.

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