High streets shrinking as shop closures increase


The Local Data Company’s analysis says there were 192,765 retail units across Britain’s 650 biggest town centres in 2018.

The number of shops on Britain’s high streets is now falling after reaching an all-time peak last year, according to exclusive analysis commissioned by Sky News.

Around one in nine of the nation’s shops are now vacant, while a growing number are being converted into other uses – such as offices and homes.

The analysis backs up the theory that Britain now has too many retail units and is likely to enter an era when our high streets shrink.

According to analysts from the Local Data Company, the number of shops in Britain’s 650 biggest town centres reached its height in the first three months of 2018, when there were 192,765 retail units.

Since then, the total has gone into a slow decline.

According to the figures, well over a thousand shops have now gone from those high streets, with more expected to disappear in the coming 18 months.

This is due to the impact of changing shopping habits, tighter economic conditions and the gradual closure of shops because of insolvency agreements already signed, but not yet completed.

The analysis also showed that 3.6% of shops across British town centres had been empty for more than three years.

That rate was highest in northeast England and Wales, where nearly 6% of shops are long-term empty.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said: “The number of occupied units in the UK had been steadily increasing, reaching an all-time peak in the first quarter of 2018.

“However, we have now reached a turning point and the number of shops in the UK is falling with store rationalisation programmes and administrations taking effect.

“The 2018 vacancy data reveals how towns and cities are seeing the impact of an oversupply of retail stores, after years of expansion across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks.

“We would expect this trend to continue especially as we are seeing an increase in development activities as landlords look to convert retail property for other uses such as residential and warehousing.”

The analysis comes at a crucial time for Britain’s retailers.

Debenhams, House of Fraser and Arcadia have all gone through insolvency proceedings, known as Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) in recent times.

BHS closed down, along with other familiar names such as Maplin, Toys R Us and Poundworld.

For many, the British high street is in crisis, but the picture isn’t a simple one.

Retail spending has grown by more than 2% over the past year and some shops, such as Primark and Zara, have reported strong sales.


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