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UK shop closures at record high in 2020

Ted Hennessey, PA
·2-min read

A record number of shops closed during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus lockdown, new figures show.

A total of 11,000 chain operator outlets shut between January and August this year, according to research from the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PwC.

Around 5,000 shops opened, leaving a net decline of 6,001 stores, almost double the drop during the same period last year.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:  “We know that the pandemic will continue to impact the way we work, rest and play; however, in terms of how we shop, this isn’t new.

“What we have seen is an acceleration of existing changes in shopping behaviours alongside forced experimentation from Covid-19 restrictions.

“We all knew that consumers were shifting to shopping online or changing their priorities in terms of the things they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a step-change in these underlying trends to where they have now become the new normal.”

The changing face of the high street
Twice as many net store closures occurred in the first half of 2020 in comparison with last year (Mike Egerton/PA)

The data shows there has been a steady rise in shop closures since 2017, when the total was 6,453, increasing by at least 1,000 almost every year.

The sectors which have seen consistent growth over the last five years include value retailers and discount supermarkets.

Leisure is likely to “remain resilient” despite the demand for takeaway outlets and coffee shops, the Local Data Company said.

It also predicted a rise in local tradesmen outlets, building products and locksmiths, as services such as banks and post offices move away from the high street.

Lucy Stainton, of the Local Data Company, said: “As with any economic turmoil, there are opportunities for retailers who are able to weather this storm, with the availability of prime property, increased activity and spend in local centres, and changing consumer habits.

“Agile retailers who are able to innovate and adapt quickly, such as Pret launching its coffee subscription service or e-bike retailer Pure Electric who have opened 13 stores this year, will be the most resilient as we head towards the end of a year which arguably has been the most challenging in recent history.”