High Street “holding up”

The number of store closures has decreased to 14 per day

High Street graph

New research has revealed that the number of chain retail outlets closing on the High Street in England, Scotland and Wales is at its lowest level for seven years.

In the first six months of 2017, 2342 shops opened and there were 2564 closures, which is the equivalent to 14 closures per day.

The net difference decreased from 503 stores in the first half of 2016 to 222 stores in the first half of 2017. This represents the smallest net decline since the first half of 2013 when 209 more stores closed than opened.

The research also found that there are currently 3228 units classified as opticians on the High Street in England, Scotland and Wales. Over the past 12 months, 14 practices have closed.

PwC research, compiled by the Local Data Company, tracked 67,521 outlets operated by multiple retailers in 500 town centres across Great Britain.

Consumer markets leader at PwC, Lisa Hooker, said that it is encouraging to see the High Street holding up and even rallying in some areas.

“The twin cannons of increased online purchases and a tough economy have seen many retailers take a long, hard look at their store portfolios,” she said.

“There will always be a physical presence on the High Street, but developments in technology are accelerating and impacting future staffing and operating models,” Ms Hooker added.

The research also revealed that the UK’s retail sector has higher online sales as a percentage of total retail sales than the US or any other country in Europe.

Computers are the most popular device for online shopping but smartphones and other mobile devices are catching up, PwC revealed.

“Retailers must continue to evolve if they are to make the most of both new digital opportunities and the country’s High Streets,” Ms Hooker concluded. 

The East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber fared best in England. The East Midlands saw its net change in the six months of 2016 bounce back from -21 store closures to eight in the first half of 2017, and Yorkshire and the Humber increased from -21 to 12.