Heightened restructuring activity – driven heavily by the turmoil that has engulfed the restaurant sector – has seen the net reduction in stores on Britain’s high streets reach a record level.
The first half of 2019 brought a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets – the highest number since analysis by PwC and the Local Data Company began in 2010.
In total, an average of 16 stores a day closed, as restructurings and the online migration of shopping and services continued to hit the high street.
The first half of 2019 saw almost twice as many store closures as new openings. In total, 1,634 stores opened and 2,868 stores closed over the period, leading to a net decline of 1,234 stores (compared with a net decline of 1,123 in the first half of 2018).
Restaurants suffered the second biggest drop (-103), behind fashion retailers (-118), while pubs (-96) and estate agents (-100) followed closely behind.
While the decline in many service sectors are likely to continue, the fact that fashion and restaurant closures have been dominated by one-off administrations and CVAs suggests the decline may ease in the coming year, according to PwC.
Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said: “A number of high profile business administrations have contributed to the record net decline in high street store numbers, for example in fashion retail and casual dining.
“Several of these were in turn caused by a culmination of CVAs that reduced rents and store numbers, but did not sufficiently improve the consumer proposition or cost structure of those brands.
“This reinforces our view that any business restructuring needs to happen alongside a wider programme of change. As we approach the key revenue period in the run up to the festive season – often make or break for many retailers – right-sizing store portfolios and wider cost bases will be crucial.”
There was some growth from the F&B sector: takeaways saw a net increase of 26 outlets, one of only two sectors, along with sport and health clubs, to grow by a double-digit number.