Vaping bars, e-commerce hubs and charity shops on the rise in the Great British high street as pawnbrokers, video libraries and clothing shops decline

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Vaping bars are on the rise (Source: Getty)

Our online shopping habits - and the rise of e-smoking - are changing the face of the Great British high street. 

In the last year, huge numbers of mobile phone shops, pawnbroker and cheque cashing businesses, clothes stores, travel agents and recruitment agencies have closed down up and down the country.

In their place vaping bars, parcel packaging and collection hubs, discounters, bookies, charity shops and take-away joints have sprung up. 

The demise of Blockbuster meant that fully 100 per cent of video libraries at a national chain level disappeared from the high street.  
 
The top line figures paint a depressing picture for the general state of the retail sector, which is hoping for good news from the Treasury over business rates.
 
The figures, compiled by Local Data Company for PwC, show that nearly three times as many shops disappeared from our streets in 2014 compared with the year before, in what the financial services group describe as a “drastic overhaul” of the high street “in response to the advance of online sales and changing consumer demand”. 
 

 
Although the number of closures was broadly in line with 2013 – 5,839 in total, equal to 16 each day – the number of shops opening was much lower, resulting in a net closure of 987 shops. This data does not include independent shops. 
 
Of those, the vast majority were “traditional” - clothing, footwear and so on. The UK lost 765 shops of these kind in the final tally. 
 
Meanwhile service retail – opticians, travel agents, hairdressers and recruitment agencies – also struggled, with 457 stores closing down throughout the year. 
 
But e-cigarette, or vaping, bars were among the success stories, along with pound shops, bookies, charity stores and coffee shops. There was also huge growth in the number of postal, packaging and shopping shops, reflecting the growing shift towards online or click-and-collect purchasing. 
 
Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues also grew, although at a slower rate than last year. 
 

 
Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC said: “This year’s numbers expose the harsh impact of ‘macro’ changes on the high street, especially in certain sub-sectors. 
 
“Regulation has blindsided the money shops, the advance of technology has hammered some phone operators and the internet continues to dent the clothing sector. Despite the benign economy, the net loss of shops has accelerated. 
 
“The insolvencies of Phones4U, Blockbuster, Albemarle & Bond, and La Senza, a diverse cross-section of the retail market, epitomise these factors.   
 
“Despite the continuing problem of closures, new sub-sectors, such as discount shops and charity shops keep growing. The strength of the restaurant and fast-food sectors is also a fillip for the high street.”
  
Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said this was the “second most significant annual decline in chain retailers” since the 1,779 high of 2012. 
 
“Change will continue and the area to watch in 2015 is the battle of the convenience and food store sector as supermarkets, the discounters and pound shops fight it out.”