Covid-19 pandemic drives record number of stores shutting down in 2020

Covid-19 pandemic drives record number of stores shutting down in 2020
UK retail is not out of the woods just yet, with further closures expected this year.
// Research from PwC & Local Data Company shows 17,532 chain stores closed down last year, while only 7655 opened
// This leaves a net deficit of 9877 permanent store closures – the highest on record
// Figures equate to 48 stores closing every day, with just 21 opening.

The carnage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on UK retail has been laid bare in new research that shows a record number of stores permanently shut down in 2020.

According to research from PwC and the Local Data Company, 17,532 chain stores closed down last year, while only 7655 opened up.

This leaves a net deficit of 9877 permanent store closures – the highest on record – and equates to 48 stores closing every day, with just 21 opening.


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The results are based on a survey of 208,000 shops operated by multiple retailers – in other words, retailers that operate five or more shops across the UK.

The study, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph, described the figures as “expected” due to the pandemic.

However, the study also warned that UK retail was not out of the woods just yet, with further closures expected this year.

“Worryingly, the real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt as some stores ‘temporarily closed’ during lockdowns, but considered as open in the research, are unlikely to return,” it read.

The study also found that retail parks were least affected when compared to high streets and shopping centres, and that small towns were benefiting from a “mini-renaissance” due to restrictions on travel and stay-at-home orders.

The news comes after the latest vacancy monitor from the BRC and Local Data Company revealed that 13.7 per cent of all shops were empty during the quarter to the end of December.

Vacancy levels had jumped from 13.2 per cent in the previous three-month period, as the monitor reported the 10th consecutive quarter of rising vacancies.

Retailers were already facing tough trading conditions before the pandemic, but last year was bighted by an acceleration in the number of store closures amid company restructures, administrations and liquidations.

Prominent high street chains that shut down their standalone stores for good in 2020 include Mothercare, Beales, Carphone Warehouse, TM Lewin, Oasis & Warehouse, Oliver Sweeney, J.Crew, Evans, Brighthouse and Cath Kidston – except for its flagship in Piccadilly which reopened just before Christmas.

The turmoil saw 176,718 jobs lost across retailers during 2020, according to data from the Centre for Retail Research.

This equates to 3400 retail jobs vanishing each week during the year.

Meanwhile, Topman and Burton parent company Arcadia Group slid into administration at the end of November and department store giant Debenhams entered liquidation almost immediately afterwards after a sales process failed.

However, their respective store closures – with the exception of Arcadia Group’s Evans – would not come into effect until this year following the rescue deals they made with Asos and Boohoo.

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