News | Published September 11 2019

Net high-street closures rise to 1,234

A net number of 1,234 stores were closed on Britain’s leading 500 high streets in the first half of 2019 according to new figures published by PwC and the Local Data Company.

It is an increase on the 1,123 closures over the same period in 2018 and the highest level of closures in the nine years the survey has been running.

The figures equate to roughly 16 closures per day as retailers undergo restructuring to offset costs.

The rise of online retailers has brought significant difficulties to high street operators, who are also having to grapple with an increased minimum wage and high business rates along with the formidable competition.

It has led to a high number of unit closures on UK high streets as some businesses have either entered administration or been forced to cut costs to stave off insolvency. 

Debenhams and House of Fraser are two of the household names to have been affected.

Lisa Hooker, a consumer markets expert at PwC, believes that the figures show that people's changing shopping habits are not shifting back toward the high street.

She 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.”

Hooker called on retailers to adapt by making high street shops “relevant” to the modern consumer, but acknowledged that “new and different” operators who could bring that innovation were hesitant to occupy vacant units on high streets given the financial gamble.

In PwC’s full figures, which includes retailers with five outlets or more, it was revealed that a total 1,634 stores opened in the six months to the end of June, which was a four per cent rise on 2018, but this was counterbalanced by the 2,868 stores which closed.

Fashion chains were hit the hardest, with roughly ten shops closing down per week. There were also 103 net closures for restaurants, a further 100 for estate agents and 96 for pubs.

However, the damage was offset somewhat by an increased number of sports and health clubs and takeaway units opening on high streets.

Four regions sustained fewer net closures than in 2018, namely the East Midlands, North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Meanwhile, the rate of closures in the Greater London region met the national average but came with the largest number of net closures nationwide. 

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
September 11 2019

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