Closures 'slowing'

Demise of top brands left Britain with 10k fewer shops

Empty TopShop
TopShop was among the heritage brand casualties (pic: Terry Murden)

Britain’s towns and cities had 10,059 fewer shops last year following the demise of a number of “heritage brands” from key locations.

The disappearance of big names such as TopShop and Debenhams contributed to the closure of 17,219 outlets. The 7,160 shops that opened were mainly independents, though this figure was its lowest since 2014.

In Scotland, 1,424 chain shops closed, the third highest among 11 nations and regions, with 673 opening, giving a net loss of 751 – or two per day. This compares with a net loss of 652 in 2020.

Fashion is the fastest declining category with several chains acquired by online operators such as Asos, with no ambition to operate stores.

However, analysts believe the worst may be over and that the 47 stores shutting every day across Britain is down from 48 in 2020. Five of the 11 areas studied showed a slowing pace of a decline, though everywhere saw further net losses.

The number of shops across Scotland’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks has steadily declined in recent years with net losses being recorded in each year since at least 2016.

The last two years have seen the demise of some large fashion and department store chains which were on the brink of collapse.

However, with these stores now closed, analysts believe future closures should begin to level off and the number of closures is therefore expected to slow through 2022.

Lucy Stainton, commercial director at the Local Data Company which compiled the data with PwC, said the pandemic has accelerated the changes already under way across retail.

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She insists that the data does not mean the death of the High Street, but rather a final shake-out of some of the heritage brands.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets lead at PwC, said: “The last two years have been tumultuous for retailers but the closures we’ve seen are an acceleration of what was happening before the pandemic.

“Changes in consumer behaviour, changing patterns of working and the shift to online is impacting on both retail and service chain operators.

“Location matters most to consumers and whilst city centres and shopping centres falter, retail parks and standalone operators have broad appeal. Multiple operators are taking note of this changing consumer behaviour and are relocating stores to where their customers need them to be.”


Jason Higgs, head of retail for PwC Scotland, added: “We continue to see an annual reduction of stores up and down our high streets and across our shopping centres.

“This year’s acceleration of net closures was expected given the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the fact government support for chain retailers has been phased out.

“The retail industry is going through a period of enormous flux and in the likes of Glasgow and Edinburgh there are already some radical plans emerging to repurpose city centres.

“We’re seeing everything from flats and hotels to adventure golf courses emerge from the chrysalises of boarded up shops and it is this entrepreneurial flair along with bold action from local authorities and landlords that will entice consumers back into their high streets.”

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