Banks suffer hundreds of high street closures during 2018

Sebastian McCarthy
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Fears For Santander UK As It Suffers A Credit Rating Downgrade
Last week Santander revealed plans to shut 140 branches, in a move that would reduce its estate by almost a fifth (Source: Getty)

Walk-in banks suffered more net closures than any other type of retailer last year, as fast-growing digital rivals lured shoppers away from traditional high street heavyweights.

While beleaguered department stores have been stealing the doom-and-gloom headlines for the retail sector in recent months, Britain’s bricks-and-mortar banks saw the greatest retrenchment last year, with some 716 more closures than openings during the course of 2018.

The news comes amid the rise of “challenger banks” within the financial sector, with disruptors such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling all rising to prominence in recent years.

Last week Santander revealed plans to shut 140 branches, in a move that would reduce its estate by almost a fifth, blaming closures on “changes in how customers are choosing to carry out their banking”.

The Local Data Company (LDC), which produced the figures, also highlighted that branch transactions have plunged by 23 per cent in the last three years, while digital transactions increased by 99 per cent.

According to the LDC, vacancy rates within the leisure industry is “creeping up” and is now at 8.5 per cent, marking the highest level in five years, due to the recent flurry of administrations and insolvencies in the casual dining sector.

“LDC’s latest figures prove that for better or worse, the structural transformation across the retail sector shows no sign of slowing or abating,” said Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the LDC.

“However, perhaps the most defining feature of 2018 is the first-time reversal of fortunes in the leisure space, this has largely been driven by a decline in the mid-market casual dining space. The key areas of growth across the last 12 months are very much skewed towards 'lifestyle' brands and offers including health clubs, restaurant / bar concepts, barber shops and beauty salons. This shows how consumers are continuing to be driven by newness and experience, presenting increasing challenges for more legacy operators.”