Residential addresses now outnumber retailers by more than two to one on UK high streets, data published today reveals.
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The percentage of retail business fell two per cent to comprise just 25 per cent of high street addresses between 2012 and 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Ordnance Survey figures.
Meanwhile residential properties comprised 56 per cent of high street addresses in the same period.
Jobs in the retail sector fell in every region but London over the five-year stretch, the study also found.
In London, retail jobs grew six per cent despite the capital having the lowest number of people in high street employment.
The ONS said that troubles in the sector had led to “anxiety about how high streets will develop in the future”.
Underlining the “period of change” facing the sector, the report added that “the closure of branches of retailers across many high streets has led to worries about the decline of retail on the high street”.
Wales suffered the worst slump with 10 per cent of retail jobs disappearing in the country over the five-year period, but Scotland fared little better with an 8.6 per cent fall.
In England, the worst affected regions were Yorkshire and the Humber (seven per cent), the east of England (5.7 per cent) and the east Midlands (4.9 per cent).
The report is based on almost 7,000 high streets, covering a period of time that has seen major brands like New Look, House of Fraser, Debenhams and Maplin call in the administrators.
In 2017 there were 404,145 businesses registered on high streets, making up 13 per cent of all businesses in the UK.
Residential properties in town centres have grown, with high streets seeing a six per cent population growth over five years compared to three per cent in non-high street areas.
The west Midlands was the only region to see higher growth in business on the high street, compared with elsewhere, but this success was driven by transportation and storage businesses rather than retail.
Residential property prices on the high street tend to be cheaper than
in other areas because of “the different housing mix between high
street areas and non-high street areas”, the ONS said.
The report found that by 2017 flats accounted for 62 per cent of residential
sales on the high street, compared to 18 per cent in other areas and to 40 per cent of sales in 1997.
The ONS suggested this could be because of the rise in new
purpose-built blocks of flats “aimed at students, young professionals
and older residents in many city and town centres”.
Accommodation, along with the food sector – bucked the national trend with a 20 per cent surge on high streets in every country and region across the UK.
In December the government announced a new £675m fund to transform
town centres by helping local leaders implement “bold new visions” to
make high streets “fit for the future”.