High street closures hit 2010 low at equivalent of 14 stores per day

The number of high street shops facing closure has dropped to its lowest level since 2010, but that trend still leaves the UK with an equivalent of 14 fewer bricks and mortar chain stores each day, new research shows.

Analysis of 67,521 chain stores - accounting for those with more than five national outlets - across 500 town centres in Great Britain showed that there were 2,564 store closures during the first six months of the year.

Charity shops, shoe stores, gift shops and women's clothing retailers were the hardest hit over the period, according to research compiled by the Local Data Company for PwC.

The number of closures outstripped the 2,342 shop openings during the first half of the year, but at an average of 14 store closures per day, it represented the lowest number of closures since 2010.

The net difference between closures and openings has also "shrunk significantly" to 222 stores versus the net loss of 503 stores in the first half of 2016, and is the smallest figure since the same period in 2013, when 209 more stores closed than had opened.

Oxfam shop
Oxfam shop

Mike Jervis, an insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, said the "relatively low" number of closures over the period reflected a "more stable environment" and proved that consumer confidence was more resilient than had been expected.

Stores that have previously seen notable high street declines have also started to reach an "equilibrium", according to PwC, with general fashion stores, banks and cheque cashing shops recording their lowest number of net closures in three years.

But tobacconists, coffee shops and beauticians saw a relative boom, having seen their presence on the high street grow at the fastest pace among their peers in the first half of the year.

Ice cream parlours were also amongst the winners, thanks to openings by chains including Ben & Jerry's and Kaspa's Creams.

But Mr Jervis warned that the retail sector could still face trouble.

"The environment is, of course, uncertain, with recent data showing a more challenging retail environment. I expect net store closures to be an ongoing feature of the market.

"Retailers will choose specific closure stores very carefully and will aim to capitalise on leases expiring in the ordinary course of their businesses."

Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Scotland suffered the biggest number of net closures, but still managed to see that figure narrow from a total loss of 87 stores in the first half of 2016 compared with a total loss of 42 this year.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: "Regional variances show the importance of understanding local economies. Some regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber have shown a significant turnaround from a loss of 20 units in H1 2016 to growth of 12 units on H1 2017."

Yorkshire and the Humber was one of only two regions to experience net openings, with the other being the East Midlands which benefited from a net rise of eight stores.

Even the Greater London area was not shielded from the trend, having suffered a drop of 23 stores, on a net basis, though that was down from a loss of 164 sites in the first half of 2016.