Dec 6, 2022
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Department and fashion stores suffer most from pandemic's high street impact - report

Dec 6, 2022

Just how major the changes have been on Britain's high streets after two years of lockdowns and trading restrictions can be seen in a new report. And no surprises that department stores followed by fashion retailers head the list of businesses most negatively affected, data from a BBC/Ordnance Survey study shows.

Photo: Nigel Taylor

Challenging and changing conditions contributed to a 13.4% drop in department stores across Great Britain (excluding Ireland) between March 2020 and March 2022, with Debenhams and Beales the biggest casualties. Two years on from the first lockdown in 2020, there were 328 fewer department stores in England, Scotland and Wales, the data shows.

Meanwhile, the number of clothes stores operating in Britain is down 4,300 over the period, a fall of 8.5%. The collapse of the Arcadia retail empire in 2020 saw Burtons, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Topshop and Miss Selfridge all disappear from the UK’s shopping streets, it highlighted.

Overall, there were 9,300 fewer retail outlets across the two-year period, with the findings illustrating the changing face of the British high street “from a place to buy things to a place to do stuff -- like get your nails done and meet friends for a coffee or a cocktail”.

Analysis of 1.5 million records contained in the Ordnance Survey's ‘Points of Interest’ mapping data, a comprehensive quarterly survey of businesses, facilities and services operating in England, Scotland and Wales, shows two types of business prospered during the period: beauty salons and tattoo parlours, along with places to eat and drink, despite social distancing.

It showed high streets and shopping centres have become a magnet for hair & beauty services in the past few years (an additional 5,100 premises now operate compared with pre-pandemic) an increase of 5.9%. 

And in the G1 and G2 postcodes of central Glasgow, hair & beauty services are now the most prevalent type of shop -- overtaking pubs and bars which were the most prevalent in March 2020, the report noted.

However, the report also shows that high Streets and shopping areas appear to be evolving into more service and hospitality-based venues. And despite the restrictions of lockdowns and social distancing rules, eating and drinking establishments saw growth of almost 4%.

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