Fashion suffers despite lower UK store vacancy rates

Despite the challenging trading conditions and the rise of online shopping, the number of chain retail outlets closing on UK high streets is at its lowest level for seven years, according to new research by the Local Data Company.



The report, commissioned by PwC, tracked more than 67,000 stores operated by multiple retailers in 500 town centres across Great Britain. It revealed that  2,342 shops opened in the first six months of 2017, while 2,564 stores closed – resulting in a net difference of just 222 stores.

By contrast, the net difference between store openings and closures in the first half of 2016 was 503, which means the number has shrunk significantly. In fact, this is the smallest net decline since the first half of 2013, when 209 more stores closed than opened.

While tobacconists, beauticians and coffee shops were among those growing at the fastest rate, shoe shops, women’s clothing stores and gift shops were among the hardest hit in the first six months of 2017, according to the research.

During the period, 75 womenswear stores closed down, and an additional 75 shoe shops stopped trading. However, general fashion shops posted its lowest net decline for three years at -32.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “It’s encouraging to see the high street holding up - and even rallying in some cases. The twin cannons of increased online purchases and a tough economy have seen many retailers take a long, hard look at their store portfolios. There will always be a physical presence on the high street, but developments in technology are accelerating and impacting future staffing and operating models.

“Ways of shopping are continuously transforming and include subscription models, the connected home, and companies using data analytics to suggest your next purchase. Major questions are beginning to be asked about who will ultimately ‘own’ the consumer. 

“The UK is one of the world leaders for consumer online purchases. Retailers must continue to evolve if they are to make the most of both new digital opportunities and the country’s high streets.”

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