New research from PwC and the Local Data Company has found that a net 1,234 stores have shut on Britain’s top 500 high streets, in the first half of 2019 alone. This equates to about 16 shops closing each day.
These figures are the highest since the beginning of the survey, in 2010, and shows a rise of 111 stores compared to the same period last year. This means that the High Street crisis still has some way to run.
High street retailers continue to face growing competition from online operators such as Amazon, and they face rising rents and overheads, such as minimum wage and business rates. As a result, retailers are having to move online and restructure their businesses, if they wish to see any chance of remaining in the market.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest net declines, following fashion retailers, were for restaurants, estate agents and pubs. This matches what we have heard this year so far in the news, with the various closures of companies within these sectors. For example, House of Fraser and Jamie’s Italian went into administration, and high-profile high street retailers such as Select, Debenhams and New Look, announced large-scale closures via a CVA.
When looking into locations – Greater London saw the largest number of net closures, whereas the East Midlands, North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber were the only regions to see fewer closures than last year.
On a more positive note, the number of store openings rose by four per cent and there have been more takeaway services and sports and health clubs.
With this change in consumer shopping behaviour, the future reality is that less High Street retail stores will be needed. Instead, lies opportunity to re-design the high street space for other purposes, meeting the consumer demand for convenience, choice and experience.
Consumer markers leader at PwC, Lisa Hooker said: ‘’The decline in store numbers in the first half of 2019 shows that there's been no let-up in the changing ways that people shop and the cost pressures affecting High Street operators.’’
It is suggested that if retailers were encouraged to invest in stores ‘’more relevant to today’s customers’’, with ‘’new and different types of operators’’, there would be less of a crisis.
So, is the adaptation of stores to becoming more relevant, the way forward?