Retailers are being edged out of the high street following a spike in change of use requests to convert shops into restaurants.
More than a third of change of use applications made to councils last year were to swap retailers for restaurant or takeaways, despite the challenges currently facing the casual dining sector.
London had the highest number of applications for the change of use of retail business premises across its 1,200 high streets. Over the last three financial years almost a third of applications to switch from retail use came from London premises.
The figures come at a difficult time for both the restaurant and retail industries.
A number of casual dining chains have closed branches under restructuring plans in recent years including Carluccio’s, Prezzo and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Jamie’s Italian, the chain owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, collapsed earlier this year.
Meanwhile, retailers including Philip Green’s Arcadia, which owns Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, and Monsoon Accessorize have been forced into company voluntary arrangements (CVA), a controversial restructuring process that involves reducing rents and often closing stores.
Four high street businesses closed each day between 2012 and 2017, according to research by Direct Line for Business. However, the number of non-high street businesses has increased by six per cent from 2.43m to 2.61m in the last five years.
“With the internet making it so easy to run a successful business without the traditional overheads of a bricks and mortar business, it’s no surprise to see a decline in the number of physical shops on our high streets,” said Jemma Holloway, retail product manager at Direct Line for Business.
“Shops are disappearing at an alarming rate and with more than 10m people living just a short walk away from a local high street, it is important for the estimated 100,000 shops that remain operating in these locations that people take advantage of them to stop them dying out.”