Union calls for campaign to halt shop closures

Empty store
// A new campaign to halt shop closures has been called to stepped up by Usdaw
// 57,000 jobs were lost in the UK retail industry in 2019

Usdaw has called for action to stop store closures as the retail sector continues to report vacant units on the high street.

The shopworkers’ union Usdaw is due to announce the 22 per cent decline in the number of people visiting high streets in the West Country at the annual conference of Labour South West in Bristol this weekend.

A total of 57,000 jobs were lost in the UK retail industry in 2019 with many of them in the South West.

READ MORE: Shop vacancy rate hits four-year high

The region has experienced the largest increase in vacancy rates in the country, rising from 9.6 per cent in 2016 to 11.2 per cent, equivalent to more than 2700 vacant units, at least 880 of which have been empty for more than three years, according to Usdaw.

“2019 was the worst year for the retail sector since records began. In recent years we’ve lost household names like British Home Stores, Toys R Us and Mothercare,” General secretary Paddy Lillis said.

“At the same time, companies such as Debenhams, New Look and Marks and Spencer have been closing hundreds of stores.

“If any other industry was facing this level of upheaval, there would quite rightly be a public outcry and Government action, but that is not the case in retail.

“Shops and shopworkers are undervalued, but they are at the heart of our communities. Staff are the biggest asset for any high street retailer, so they must invest in the shopfloor workforce.

“We need to tackle the structural issues facing the high street. Business rates that penalise high street retailers, public transport that makes it difficult for people to access their town centres, and extortionate parking charges.

“An industrial strategy for retail must be a priority and we must hold this Government to account for its continued failure to address the growing crisis on our high streets in communities across the South West of England and across the UK.”

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