Fashion retailers now outweighed by leisure outlets, cafes on the high street

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New data from the British Independent Retailers Association suggests more independent retail shops are opening than closing down in the first quarter of 2017 (Image: Shutterstock)
New data from the British Independent Retailers Association suggests more independent retailers are opening than closing down in the first quarter of 2017 (Image: Shutterstock)

An increasing number of fashion chains and bank branches are closing down and making way for health clubs, vaping shops, takeaways and jewellers according to a new report about the evolving British high street.

Research by PwC and the Local Data Company (LDC) said the face of the high street was rebalancing from shopping to leisure and experience outlets.

Clothes shops, bank branches and insurances agencies have decreased their presence on prime high street sites as banking and clothes shopping becomes increasingly digital.

PwC retail specialist Mike Jervis said the research underscored the “changing face of town centres” across the UK.

“The insatiable appetite for fast food and coffee shops fills the void left by banks, mobile phone and clothing shops,” he said.

“Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever, leaving closures in its wake.


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“Last year was relatively benign for restructuring and insolvency in all sub-sectors of retail, so the net closures point to structural changes in customer behaviour more so than a consumer slowdown.”

In 2016, 4534 stores opened in the UK while 5430 closed, a net change of minus 896.

This figure represents the closure of more shops last year than in 2015, when the high street recorded a net change of minus 498.

PwC retail and consumer leader Madeleine Thomson said retailers needed to be more inventive.

“With prices on the up and less disposable income available to the average UK consumer, retailers will need to be versatile and savvy to increase footfall to their stores,” she said.

“Despite the fall in new store openings, consumers continue to place value on the in-store experience, with the number one in-store attribute being shop staff with a deep knowledge of their product range.”

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said this trend was no surprise, as it has been happening for the last seven years.

“Leisure (food and beverage) outlets is the only business category that has seen growth in 2016 but this has also seen the significant slowdown in openings which is perhaps a reflection of a bubble starting to burst after years of significant growth,” he said.

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