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Record number of high street shops close amid lockdown misery



The number of shops closing on the UK high street reached record levels during the first half of the year as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, new data has revealed.

Some 11,120 chain operator outlets closed down between January and June, more than twice as many net store closures compared to the same period in 2019, according to research from the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PwC.

Despite 5,119 new shops opening during the same time the net decline remains 6,001, in what the report’s authors called a “steep decline amidst a challenging year for retail and leisure”.

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York was the area worst affected by shop closures after the city saw 55 outlets close their doors, while Harpenden in Hertfordshire witnessed the strongest increase with four new stores opening up.

As around 22 per cent of the chain retailer market is still temporarily closed, the overall number of shop closures could become significantly higher, the report warned.

Thousands of shops across the UK have closed their doors permanently (Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP)

Glimmer of hope for physical businesses

However, as shop opening have remained broadly at the same level they’ve maintained for the past five years, consumers are still keen to buy certain goods and services from physical shops they can visit in person.

“We all knew that consumers were shifting to shopping online or changing their priorities in terms of the things they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a step change in these underlying trends to where they have now become the new normal,” said Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC.

Many businesses on London’s busy Oxford Street are resorting to hefty sales to make up for lost revenue (Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP)

The report highlights a resurgence of interest in local high streets people can pop into, Ms Hooker said, with many newly-opened outlets consisting of inexpensive goods retailers, takeaways and pizza delivery and tradesmen shops, building outfitters and locksmiths.

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“We all still want and need to physically visit shops and leisure operators, it’s likely then that whatever happens retail will come out of this smaller but stronger,” she added.

The report’s data accounts for January to August, with no fieldwork undertaken during the national lockdown, examining 210,365 outlets on all high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in Great Britain.

The latest BRC-ShopperTrack footfall monitor earlier this month found that UK retail footfall decreased by 30.1 per cent in September compared with the same month last year.

The figures revealed a 4.7 percentage point improvement against August but showed local lockdown restrictions weighed on shopping throughout the month.