Apr 11, 2018
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UK store openings fall 10%, are shoe shops doomed?

Apr 11, 2018

We know that plenty of stores are closing on the UK high street, but how many are opening? Not as many as might be hoped, it seems, with new figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) for PwC showing that openings fell 10% last year to 4,083 across the UK’s top 500 town centres.

Fashion shops are closing in the UK but they're also opening

And with 5,855 chain store closures (independents aren’t included) throughout the year, 2017 saw a net loss of 1,772 shops, with fashion and footwear suffering the most.

Perhaps that's no surprise. Physical stores remain hugely challenged in Britain as UK shoppers are among the most internet addicted. Add to that a mixture of high rents and general economic uncertainty around Brexit, and you have an environment that's not very welcoming for anyone wanting to open a new shop.

That's especially the case in the fashion sector, where a raft of big names are desperately trying to close shops or negotiate lower rents with their landlords.

But while fashion saw the biggest erosion of store numbers out of all categories, shoe shops were second placed, dropping by 86 shops last year as 164 closed and just 78 opened.

Shoe shop closures were partly driven by Brantano's and Jones Bootmaker’s woes. However, trends could also be playing a part here - consumers are wearing more trainers instead of ‘traditional’ shoes and buying them in sports stores rather than regular shoe shops, suggesting the model of traditional high street shoe shops is on its way out.

But there was a net rise in the number of beauty stores in 2017 as this proved to be one sector in which physical stores still seem relevant, despite the rise of online beauty shopping.

Overall, LDC said that an average of 16 stores a day were closed last year (up from 15 in 2016) with the pace accelerating in the second half as the trading environment got even tougher and costs rose at a faster rate. At the same time, an average of only 11 stores were opened.

PwC consumer markets leader Lisa Hooker said: “2017 was tough for the British retail industry. We saw volatility from month to month across different sectors, as wage growth failed to keep up with inflation forcing many shoppers to think more carefully about their spending habits.”

She added that “digital offerings are increasingly becoming make or break in areas like fashion.” The fashion sector is seeing shop closures being driven less by overall market conditions and more by big structural changes taking place because of the fondness for shopping online.

The biggest net closure trend was seen in Greater London, down 336 shops, as business tax rises were the highest in this region.

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