Stores are disappearing from the struggling high streets of the United Kingdom at the fastest rate in nearly 10 years, as customers switch to online shopping.
According to new research that was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and compiled by the Local Data Company, a record 2,481 shops disappeared from the top 500 high streets of the United Kingdom last year.
According to PwC, a total of 3,372 new shops opened in 2018, while far more — 5,833 — closed. The overall loss was over 50 percent more than the number that was recorded during the previous year when a net value of 1,772 stores were lost.
High streets in the United Kingdom are in major crisis, with sales at their lowest since 2008. This week, Debenhams, a department store chain, announced that it has gone into administration, not long after shutting down 50 branches because of a record annual loss last year.
Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Poundworld, Homebase, Maplin, Toys R Us, Carpetright, Mothercare, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and New Look are among the many other chains that have been affected.
The rate of store closures last year remained at 16 stores per day, the same as that of the previous year. However, the shortfall between the openings and closures reached its highest level since the start of the decade, as the withdrawals from the high street were further dented by a historic low number of store openings.
Service providers and retailers suffered the largest declines, with value, electrical, and fashion businesses among those that are most affected. Only 347 clothing stores opened in 2018 as compared with the 616 closures — meaning that 269 stores were lost.
Traditionally, store-based services such as estate agents, recruitment agencies, and banks whose business is increasingly undertaken remotely, also took a hit. PwC discovered that these categories alone accounted for a reduction of 473 stores on the top 500 high streets in 2018.
In addition, there were 107 fewer restaurants and pubs on the high streets of Britain by the end of the year.
The consumer markets leader at PwC, Lisa Hooker, pointed to structural trends in consumer habits as the number one cause of the decreased store openings.
Hooker stated: “In categories as diverse as fashion and financial services, new entrants are able to gain share by launching online — enabled by technology and consumer adoption of mobile and e-commerce — rather than be saddled with the costs and risks of opening on the high street.”
She added: “The high street of the future will be a more diverse space, not solely dependent on stores.”
Hooker continued: “However, it’s clear that the rate of openings is not currently enough to offset the closure of traditional retailers and services, so some tough decisions will need to be taken in the next few years.”