During the first half of this year, approximately 2,700 retail shops have been closed, according to accountancy firm PwC. This is the equivalent of 14 shops a day. UK retailing is under huge pressure across the board.
Fashion and electrical stores have suffered the most, due to the preponderance of people buying these goods online, with the collapse of Maplin in February resulting in about 50 stores closing down. There has also been a surprising number of restaurants and pubs closing too, with fewer people choosing to go out and eat or drink.
Italian restaurants have also struggled significantly, with Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian both shutting stores after making deals with creditors. Strada also suffered losses and closed branches during this period.
Throughout the UK, the pattern of stores closing has not been even. London has been the hardest hit, while Wales has experienced the fewest number of closes.
PwC has also announced the number of shops that have opened during this period too, finding that 1,569 new stores have appeared. However, this means that there are just over 1,200 stores that have not been replaced, showing the trend of the declining high-street that many retailers are now focused on changing.
The shops that have been opening are not directly comparable to those that have closed, however. Many of the new openings are supermarket outlets, booksellers or coffee shops, offering completely different services to the shops that are closing.
Can We Identify The Cause?
Most retailers claim that the cause of their problems is a combination of shoppers choosing to spend their money online, as well as reducing the overall amount they spend on non-necessities. As such, many businesses have struggled to pay for their basic overheads, such as business rates and rent.
To combat this, last month’s budget announced that the government would be spending £900 million on reducing business rates for small retailers by a third. Equally, it announced a new tax on online firms, which tend to employ fewer staff members and take some of the competition from the high-street.
Debates on whether this will help the struggling high-street are still being held, however, with the British Retail Consortium suggesting the that Chancellor was simply ‘tinkering around the edges’, and to restore the high-street ‘wholesale reform’ is needed.