Aug 27, 2021
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Department stores carnage: UK loses 83% in five years

Aug 27, 2021

UK department stores have become an endangered species. The country has lost 83% of its main department stores since the collapse of the BHS chain in 2016, reflecting how hard the high street has been hit by the online boom and the pandemic.


Just 79 department stores remain open compared to 467 five years ago, data compiled in July from commercial property information firm CoStar Group shows.

What’s more, two-thirds of those shuttered buildings remain unoccupied. Some 237 have still to be taken over by a new business while just 52 have plans to transfer to another business or use.

The grim figures only highlight the rapid extent of physical retail’s decline, with online retail having driven the high street decline that was added to by the Covid pandemic.

CoStar head of analytics Mark Stansfield told the BBC: “The data undoubtedly highlights the acceleration of change in the retail sector in recent years, which the pandemic has only exacerbated.

“We are increasingly seeing forward-thinking real estate owners getting ahead of the problem and reshaping what are key assets in our town centres to provide a focal point for regeneration.

“I think we'll see many more plans come to light in the coming months. With these store closures come new opportunities”.

CoStar Group said BHS was a prime example of the problems for firms on the high street. The budget clothing and homewares chain collapsed five years ago but since then a quarter of its former stores remain empty.

Debenhams, a more recent causality, still has 149 former stores vacant, data from CoStar shows.

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