Slower decline

Hope for high street as closures hit seven year low

Debenhams Rose Street
Shop closures have slowed (pic: Terry Murden)

Shop closures in Scotland are at their lowest rate for seven years, suggesting the hollowing out of the retail sector may have past its worst point.

The 1.4% overall closure rate last year was almost a quarter of the 4.7% fall in 2021 and even less than the 3% decline in pre-pandemic 2019. It is also below the 1.7% average fall across Britain..

Throughout 2022, 888 stores north of the border closed their doors, while 669 shops were opened – resulting in a net loss of 219 stores managed by retailers with more than five outlets.

Only the South East (-1.3%) has seen a slower rate of decline, while the East Midlands and North East were on a par with Scotland, with a net decrease in multiple retailers also at -1.4, according to new data from PwC and The Local Data Company (LDC).

Like the rest of Great Britain, retail parks in Scotland remain the most resilient outlet type, with a small increase in outlets (+0.1%).

North of the border the high street showed greater resilience, with a -1.5% closure rate – compared with -2.6% for the whole of GB. Shopping centres experienced a higher rate of decline, with a closure rate of -2%.

Susannah Simpson, private business lead for PwC Scotland, said: “Despite the annual reduction of stores across our shopping centres and high streets continuing, our research shows real improvement in the rate of decline in Scotland – with our retail parks demonstrating a small amount of growth during 2022.

“It’s heartening to see confidence increasing among operators as they invest back into bricks and mortar after some years of uncertainty across the sector. Innovative openings including services and the use of technology really appeals to younger shoppers who have indicated they still enjoy shopping in-store.”

Takeaway shops and convenience stores sit alongside DIY shops, restaurants, coffee shops and pet shops as the fastest growing categories.

“The slightly slower recovery on the high street is a symptom of the need to coordinate fragmented landlord bases – and other interested parties – with the type of occupant, said Ms Simpson.

“However, while the recovery is at a slower pace, it is still evident. We would hope to see new openings encouraged thanks to stabilising rent levels and the upcoming changes to business rates in April – a welcome boost alongside the positive picture painted by retail parks, shopping centres and local entrepreneurs.”

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