Britain’s high streets saw a major shutdown of chain shops, bank and gyms last year as the pandemic continued to batter the retail and leisure industries, new figures have revealed.
Over 10,000 chain outlets, including retail, hospitality, banks and gym firms, disappeared from Great Britain’s retail locations in 2021, with 7,160 shops opening compared to 17,219 closures, a net decline of 10,059, according to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).
The rate of closures stabilised last year, PwC said, with 47 shops closing per day compared to 48 in 2020.
PwC said the pressure on chain retailers had been heightened due to the withdrawal of most government support measures in July 2021.
Lisa Hooker, head of consumer markets at PwC, said location had been key to determining which retailers had survived the year and were driving some firms to relocate.
“Location matters most to consumers and whilst city centres and shopping centres falter, retail parks and standalone operators have broad appeal,” she said.
“Multiple operators are taking note of this changing consumer behaviour and are relocating stores to where their customers need them to be.”
PwC said the shift to online, accelerated by lockdowns, was the biggest common denominator for closures in both retail and services.
Fashion was the fastest declining category in terms of closures, with almost four net closures a day, while banks have ramped up their closure programmes.
Bank branches recorded a net closure of almost 1000 compared to just 413 in 2020, as Britain’s lenders look to cut costs and push through a shift to digital banking.
Bosses at the Local Data Company said the worst may have now passed, however.
“It’s worth noting that vacancy rates have started to stabilise across the market, meaning that the number of empty shops is no longer increasing,” said Lucy Stainton, commercial director at The Local Data Company.
“This is due to a significant uptick in independent retail and leisure businesses opening sites in units left vacant by chains.”
PwC said the rate of closures were likely to slow down in 2022 as the weakest firms had already closed.
“The last two years have seen a shake out of some large fashion and department store chains who were on the brink of collapse,” the firm said.
“With these stores now closed, future store closures should begin to level off. Moreover, bigger chain retailers are more likely to be proactively negotiating with landlords, so the end of the rent moratorium in March 2022 is less likely to affect them.