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Almost 1800 High Street shops close in 2017

By Chris Dawson April 11, 2018 - 7:54 pm

Latest figures on the High Street reveals a net loss of some 1,772 shops in 2017 as more closed then new stores opened. In particular clothing and shoe shops are seeing the fastest rate of closure but some sectors including beauty salons, coffee shops, ice cream parlours and bookshops are seeing slightly increased numbers. This indicates that whilst purchases are moving online, service type retail offering experiences are prospering on the High Street.

Bookshops are a particularly interesting phenomenon, bucking the trend of a move online – The British love of a physical book hasn’t diminished. It’s less surprising that fashion is struggling on the high street as it’s one of the fastest growing categories on marketplaces and shoppers increasing buy online with retailers such as ASOS reporting sales 27% up compared to the previous six months.

“The retail industry and those connected to it have long suspected the volatility of the UK high street, and these latest findings from PwC and The Local Data Company confirm the full extent of the situation. Roughly 4,000 high street shops opened in 2017, the lowest since 2010, and this number was far outweighed by the number of shopfront closures (almost 6,000). There’s no denying shoppers are reconsidering how they spend their money and expectations are changing due to increasing competition from online retailers. As a result, pressure is mounting on independent sellers to cater to increasingly unique customer delivery needs while planning for sustainable growth. Our own research certainly shows steady growth over the same period in parcel volume (8% increase YoY from 2016-2017) supporting the idea that eCommerce will continue to grow as an important source of retail revenue.”
– Daniel Ennor, Commerical Director – GFS

Bad news for the High Street won’t necessarily be good news for online, although websales are certainly growing. A second factor is the economy and as consumers feel the pinch retail is one of the areas where discretionary spend can be reined in. Consumers will be more demanding when they do spend their money whether this be delivery choice, returns options, mobile experiences, or simply value.

With the High Street being a traditionally expensive proposition, there are no signs that the trend to close stores will slow with Maplin and Toysrus disappearing and Mothercare, Carpetright, New Look and Claire’s Accessories (at least in the US) all giving profits warnings.

You might be forgiven for being sucked into the story that the High Street is dead, never to recover. The truth is that the High Street is still evolving with retailers employing technology to assist (e.g. Zara with Artificial Intelligence). Retailers are also turning ever more to mobile (and that means the Internet) to better serve customers with new ways to buy.

For online retailers, whilst lower discretionary spend for consumers is bad news, will need to sharpen their offers both on their websites and marketplaces with value, convenience and service being their best weapons to compete against the High Street retailers, who with the large real estate inventory and staffing costs are less nimble and able to react quickly to changing consumer habits.

  • SAM
    12 months ago

    “Second factor is the economy”, I would class it is the main factor. We have become poundshop Britain. Consumers have been feeling the pinch for over 10 years I would say.
    We are just the 51st state just go an look at your average US town high street or Mall out of the tourist traps to see how your high Street is going to evolve.

  • james
    12 months ago

    “The truth is that the High Street is still evolving with retailers employing technology to assist (e.g. Zara with Artificial Intelligence)”

    What a defunct waste of technology.
    The utilised AR so they could shout “Technology!” while doing something that’s been possible, easier, for decades.

    Know whats easier than pointing your phone at a prompt screen, to watch a tiny phone video?
    just having the video on the prompt screen. :-O gasp shock wows.
    same outcome, better result, less friction, less effort, but you can’t shout “Technology!” at dumb people and hope they’ll believe it.

    • james
      12 months ago

      and if the best response High Street retail has to online tech, is “watch a short video”, then it’s no surprise they’re dead/dying.
      online can do video, online does video infinitely better than in-store. if you want to win this fight focus on things online CAN’T do, there’s plenty of them to look at.

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