Retailers and unions have called for urgent action from the government to help struggling high streets as new data shows the number of shop closures is rising at the fastest pace since records began in 2010.
Analysis by PwC reported that around 16 stores closed for good every day in the first half of 2019 while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets.
Just last week, one of the industry’s key retailers, Beactive Mobility, closed one of its branches amid increasing costs and parking issues. Major high street retailer Bathstore, which deals in assistive bathing equipment, capitulated recently and had to be saved by a last-minute takeover, but not before it shut swathes of outlets.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “While retailers need to keep investing to make sure their stores and propositions are relevant to today’s consumers, it’s also critical that all stakeholders find ways to ease the burden on operators, keep investing in the high street, and encourage new and different types of operators to fill vacant space.
“Our research tells us that consumers still want to spend their money in well located and invested stores and leisure venues on the high street.
Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said: “The PwC and LDC research also shows that successful operators are taking advantage of the current turmoil to either open stores that were not economically feasible in the past, or to move stores to better locations or to take advantage of lower rents. And it’s this nimbleness that will set apart winning retailers in years to come.”
Will Broome, CEO and Founder of Ubamarket, said that PwC’s report is “hugely worrying” for the high street.
He said: “Urgent action needs to be taken to stop the rot and retailers would be wise to look at alternative ways of bringing in customers and expand their offering to take on their e-commerce rivals.
“Incorporating technology, such as in-app payments, stock checkers and personalised offers, to make the high street offering as convenient as possible will help to resurrect the high street using 21st-century solutions.”