During the past year, the High Street recovery has taken huge steps, with the first half of 2015 seeing shop closures fall to their lowest level in five years according to a new report by PwC and the Local Data Company (LDC). However, rather than this being an indicator of the widespread recovery of retailers, it is instead a sign that Britain’s changing consumer habits are changing the nature of the High Street altogether.
The figures show that, in the first six months of the current year, a total of 2,534 shops closed nationwide, roughly equating to a closure rate of 14 shops per day. This is significantly lower than the peak closure period of 2012, when an average of 20 stores shut permanently per day, and a further positive step from the 15 store closures per day during the same period last year.
Unfortunately, though, under closer inspection the report reveals that a number of businesses in certain categories continue to struggle despite the large scale improvements of the economy. During the first half, for example, cheque-cashing businesses, banks and financial institutions and women’s clothing retailers saw a comparatively high number of closures, with 110, 97 and 33 units shutting down respectively.
In part, argues PwC retail leader Mark Hudson, the changes must be put down to factors such as the rise of internet shopping and banking along with changes to consumer behaviour in the wake of the recession.
He says; “What’s clear is that a tidal wave of change on the high street is still washing through and that consumer shopping behaviour means we’re not going to go back to the traditional high streets of the past.”
On the flip side, a number of retail categories that suffered greatly during the recession are returning to the forefront of the nation’s high streets, with businesses specialising in luxury items such as jewellery enjoying a welcome period in the sun.
Furthermore, as consumer behaviour increasingly turns towards leisure and recreational pursuits, the number of both independent and chain coffee shops has surged – 26 new openings were recorded during the first half of the year, and Whitbread owned Costa Coffee has revealed plans to open a further 500 UK outlets in the near future as a result of this overwhelming popularity.
Consumers also appear split between the desire to get in shape and a willingness to splurge on fast food according to the report, with the number of health food stores and traditional takeaways firmly on the rise. However, this may again be attributed to the internet, as many now offer a delivery service through companies such as Just Eat.
Mr Hudson continues; “The near-term winners and losers are on or off trend – for example, health foods are one of the sectors thriving but payday lending is suffering. High streets are in a constant state of evolution and that’s not going to change.”
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