Store openings at seven year low as digital demands bite

Store openings at seven year low as digital demands bite

The number of new High Street stores opening in 2017 fell to 4,083, from 4,534 in 2016, according to research by the Local Data Company (LDC) for PwC.

Beauty product stores, coffee shops, cafés and tearooms, and ice cream parlours showed the highest increase in net store numbers in 2017. Despite the onslaught of digital and audiobooks, readily available via the likes of Amazon and Apple, booksellers also had a good year, suggesting there is hope for more traditional retailing of physical products, if done well.

Overall, 5,855 outlets closed on Great Britain’s High Streets in 2017, at a rate of 16 a day, a slight increase on the 15 a day closing in 2016. It is the second consecutive year the number of closures have risen. The findings equate to an overall net loss of 1,772 stores disappearing from Great Britain’s town centres in 2017. London saw the greatest number of net closures (-336), with the capital being hardest hit by the business rates reassessment and a degree of saturation in the casual dining market.

Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, says: "Many retailers are increasingly feeling the impact of the acceleration of online shopping as consumers begin to feel more comfortable with the price transparency and reliability of delivery options offered by online players. Digital offerings are increasingly becoming make or break in areas like fashion, but also for banks, travel agents and estate agents – all of which closed a significant number of High Street outlets last year. For these sectors, store closures are less driven by the market environment and more by bigger structural changes, as customers increasingly expect to interact with their service providers online or via apps.”

It’s important to remember, however, that the British High Street still plays a vital role in society. Almost 400 new clothes shops opened last year, even though over 700 closed. And, while four pubs a week closed, at the same time three a week opened. “The winners at the moment, such as nail bars, coffee shops, bookstores and craft beer pubs, are all flourishing because they serve the needs of emerging consumer segments, such as experience-seeking Millennials and offer a differentiated physical proposition that online offerings can’t compete with,” Hooker says. “The British High Street is undoubtedly facing headwinds but retailers are waking up to the challenge and reimagining the future. The winners will be those who are agile and open minded in working out the best way to ensure their stores differentiate themselves and earn their place on the High Street.” 

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