1,415 new businesses opened in 2012, but the borough lagged 28 per cent behind the entrepreneurship of the London and ELL averages.
Lewisham was also worst affected by the recession. Between 2009 and 2010, the London average for startups rose steadily by 4 per cent rise. Lewisham however, showed a 4 per cent decline.
The borough’s lower than average number of startups can also be attributed to its high concentration of residential areas and smaller pockets of business areas, which are mainly high streets. 81 per cent of businesses are classified as small enterprises with fewer than nine employees.
According to Tony Goldstein from South East Enterprise, the lack of space in Lewisham is a reason for the borough’s low turnover of new businesses. “There isn’t the land for big businesses and Lewisham is mainly residential. There are larger organisations in Croydon including Nestle. In Lewisham, the NHS and the council are the biggest employers.”
However, Goldstein believes that Lewisham is becoming increasingly entrepreneurial. “From 2004 to 2007, there were a lot of catering businesses, child-minding businesses and after school clubs,” he says. “Now there are a lot of lifestyle businesses which can be run from home and online. In 2014, Twitter is helping and businesses are evolving at a massive rate. With the recent rate of high unemployment, running a business from home is very appealing.”
Another reason for the lack of startups in Lewisham could be the low number of young adults, which is 4,000 fewer than compared with Hackney. Goldstein says that this means there is more “gallantry” in Hackney because the younger people are more enthusiastic about starting up new businesses.
But, although it is one of the boroughs with the highest number of commuters, the opening of the East London Line has improved access to the City from the borough, thus slowly increasing the number and type of businesses opening in the area.
Goldstein believes that Goldsmiths is making New Cross more “hip”, attracting more interesting types of businesses, and that the art scene in Deptford is also improving the area.
Louise Brooks, from SEE3, a Portas Pilot organisation that is responsible for filling empty high streets with pop ups in the Sydenham and Forest Hill area, thinks that more interesting and diverse businesses are opening up in the area because the East London Line has opened the borough to a younger demographic, moving to the south east for the more reasonable house prices.
Brooks said that people are starting to become more confident in setting up new businesses. Of the eight empty shops filled with a pop up from December 2012 to December 2013, six have gone on to have long term tenants.