Apr 12, 2017
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Fashion stores closed faster than ever in UK last year says LDC/PwC report

Apr 12, 2017

Its a story we’ve heard many times before but the latest store closure data for the UK illustrates it perfectly: consumers are moving their fashion spend online and more of their discretionary spend is going towards leisure activities.

Store closures were "relatively benign" last year but fashion suffered disproportionately

The new figures, from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Local Data Company (LDC), showed fashion retail losing out big time last year as more stores than ever closed.

In fact, closures outpaced store openings in 2016 for the seventh year running as ‘chain stores’ (that is, those with five branches or more) closed down to the tune of 5,430 units, compared to 4,534 opening. That left a gap of almost 900 stores which was nearly double the closure gap in 2015.

And fashion locations and department stores were two of the worst-performing categories on the closure front.

PwC and LDC also said that as closures happen, the face of UK high streets is evolving with the fastest growth being seen for health clubs, vaping shops, coffee shops, and fast food locations. The only good news for fashion was that jewellery stores were also among the fastest growing physical outlets last year.

With fashion stores closing faster than most others, the difference between closures and openings last year resulted in a net fall of 320 stores. That came as 120 Austin Reed locations were shuttered and 77 Store Twenty One units closed their doors for the last time. The big department stores decline was largely caused by the BHS failure that saw 132 stores closing their doors.

PwC’s Mike Jervis highlighted the "changing face of town centres" as leisure/experience come to the fore and as fashion migrates to online “at a faster rate than ever, leaving closures in its wake.”

He added: “The insatiable appetite for fast food and coffee shops fills the void left by banks, mobile phone and clothing shops.”

Interestingly he also added that last year had been “relatively benign for restructuring and insolvency in all sub-sectors of retail, so the net closures point to structural changes in customer behaviour more so than a consumer slowdown.”

However, this is unlikely to continue into 2017. While data shows the closure situation also being relatively benign so far this year, future closures for Brantano, Jones Bootmaker, Agent Provocateur and Jaeger could mean a sharp shift in the months ahead.

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