York worst hit place in Britain for shop closures, new report says

Shoppers walk past an empty shop on Stonegate, York. Photograph: YorkMix
18 Oct 2020 @ 12.01 pm
| Business

A record number of shops have closed in the UK in the first half of the year – and York has been the hardest hit high street in the country.

New data shows that 11,120 chain operator outlets have closed this year so far, with 5,119 shops opening, creating a net decline of 6,001.

That’s almost double the decline tracked last year (3,509), says a report published today by the Local Data Company and PwC UK.

The data includes shops, hospitality chains, and services such as post offices and banks. It does not include small independent businesses – and York has more of those than most.

The research found that York has been the worst affected area of chain store losses, with a net loss of 55 outlets.

Areas which have fared best are almost all smaller towns in the south of England, with Harpenden at the top with a net gain of four shops.

These new figures show the profound impact the pandemic is having on town centres and high streets.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said things could get worse before they get better.

“With each week that passes since retail and hospitality businesses were given the green light to reopen, the likelihood of these occupiers ever trading again in those units reduces.

“This, alongside the impact of local lockdowns and other restrictions such as the 10pm curfew will continue to have a devastating impact on the sector with more closures likely to fall in Q1 2021 following the busier golden quarter.”

Smaller but stronger

Peacocks in Acomb with its closing down signs. Photograph: Gavin Aitchison

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said it’s not all bad news.

“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,” she said.

“While it’s challenging for many, these results do prove a few positive things. Firstly, there’s been a resurgence of interest in local high streets.

“The practicalities of lockdown and the increase in working from home mean that independent shops tend to be located where consumers increasingly are.

“Plus a steady flow of openings, with the continued roll out of value retailers, the boom in takeaways and pizza delivery shops and demand for services that can still only be delivered locally such as tradesmen outlets, building products or locksmiths, shows that despite the stark numbers there remains a future for physical stores.

“We all still want and need to physically visit shops and leisure operators, it’s likely then that whatever happens retail will come out of this smaller but stronger”