Record number of stores closing every day as big rents and online shopping continues to hit high streets

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

About 16 stores are closing every day as high rents and business rates together with online shopping continues to hit traditional high streets.

Over the last six months, some 2,868 shops closed with the biggest net declines seen among fashion retailers (-118), restaurants (-103), estate agents (-100) and pubs (-96).

On average, nine new stores opened their doors every day, for a total of 1,634, but meaning there was still a net closure of 1,234.

The figure is up from 1,123 over the same period last year and the highest since the survey began in 2010.

Our insatiable appetite for online shopping also meant more clothes and fashion shops shut down than any other category, accountancy giant PwC and the Local Data Company found.

During the first half of this year, several retailers sought to close stores or reduce rents through insolvency processes known as company voluntary agreements (CVAs), including Arcadia and Debenhams.

Where the axe fell on types of stores. Credit: .

Other retailers, such as LK Bennett, Pretty Green and Coast, went bust.

However, chicken shops are proving so popular on the high street that they were one of only three store types, along with pet shops and gyms, to see more openings than closures in the last six months, according to the new research.

Kien Tan, a research director at PwC, said: “Even if big chains aren’t opening, local businesses are.

“Local entrepreneurs know their local market and know where the demand is.

"That’s why they are willing to take that risk.”

Only three areas - chicken shops, pet shops and gyms - saw more openings than closures. Credit: PA

He also pointed out that although it would appear that chains are opening, the vast majority of these are operated by franchisees.

Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, added: “A number of high profile business administrations have contributed to the record net decline in high street store numbers.

“This reinforces our view that any business restructuring needs to happen alongside a wider programme of change.”

Regionally, London was hardest hit, with the biggest number of net closures, with the East Midlands, North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber the only regions to see a fall in net closures compared with the final six months of 2018.

Number of closures and openings. Credit: .

There were some signs of growth, with the number of units opening – 1,634 – beating the 1,569 in the first half of 2018, with the LDC suggesting this is a sign of cyclical change rather than long-term decline.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail at the LDC, said: “The reality is that UK retail space will continue to look very different over the coming years, and this is demonstrated by the sheer number of stores opening and closing on an ongoing basis.”

The biggest number of closures by category were fashion retailers, pubs and bars, restaurants, estate agents and charity shops, while the largest number of openings were fashion retailers, charity shops, convenience grocery stores and takeaways.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, added: “The good news is that there are green shoots, as new entrants are entering even embattled sectors such as fashion.

“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.”