Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 12th April 2019
British high streets saw the sharpest rate of net store closures on record over the course of last year, according to a new set of figures.
Data from PwC indicates that there was a net loss of 2,481 outlets from 500 of the country’s foremost high street and shopping districts during 2018.
The figures suggest that 3,372 new stores were opened last year but those openings were more than offset by the closure of some 5,833 outlets over the same timeframe.
Openings were led by growth in the number of gyms and supported by the spread of stores focussed on providing “entertainment and indulgence” to consumers by way of bookshops, ice cream parlours and cake shops.
Meanwhile, store closures last year were led primarily by traditional high street operators including fashion retailers and sellers of electrical goods.
Many retailers with a strong high street presence have been feeling the pressure of competition from online rivals, as well as increasing costs and relatively subdued consumer spending.
Another major issue for retailers and other high street businesses has been declining footfall in or close to their stores, which PwC says accelerated over the course of last year.
PwC’s report on these issues also showed that high streets across the UK are seeing reductions in the numbers of financial and property sector operators they can sustain, with banks and estate agents increasingly shifting their business away from the high street and towards digital environments.
Pubs and restaurants also posted a net loss in terms of the number of units opening and closing last year.
Trends in evidence across UK high streets in 2018 are expected to continue in much the same direction this year as well, with high profile retailers among the businesses to have resorted to CVA deals and downsizing processes already in 2019.
“Several national chains weathered company voluntary arrangements or administrations as retailers toiled in the tough climate of 2018. Retail companies looking to survive let alone flourish in 2019 face an uphill battle,” commented Zelf Hussain from PwC.
“We have already seen several casualties in 2019 and there will undoubtedly be more, most likely in all categories except for groceries.”