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A record number of stores disappeared from main streets across the country in the first half of 2020, as Covid-19 lockdowns hammered the retail sector.

A total of 11,120 chain stores closed between January and June, while 5,119 opened. The 6,001 net store closures were a record high, compared to 3,509 in the first half of last year.

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Analysts predict there will be many more closures to come, as the data does not include outlets that were temporarily closed under lockdown rules when the analysts visited and could end up being permanently closed.

Figures, released by Local Data Company and consulting firm PwC, show that on average more than 60 stores closed per day while 28 opened. The research covers the main streets, shopping centers and shopping parks in England, Scotland and Wales.

What is the problem?

Physical retailers have been affected by a combination of changing habits, rising costs and broader economic issues as well as non-seasonal weather conditions. In recent years, names such as Mothercare, Karen Millen, Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld have disappeared from the main streets of the UK.

In terms of habits, shoppers are turning to online shopping. Companies such as Amazon have an unfair advantage because they have a lower business price bill, which cuts costs and allows online retailers to entice buyers with low prices. Commercial tariffs are taxes, based on the value of commercial property, that are imposed on traditional retailers with physical stores.

At the same time, we are moving away from buying “stuff” as more people live in smaller houses and rent rather than buy. Uncertainty about the economy has also slowed down the housing market and linked home renovations. These pressures came as rising labor and product costs, in part fueled by Brexit, coincided with economic and political uncertainty that has weakened consumer confidence.

What help do retailers need?

The big retailers want the government to change corporate pricing to ease the tax burden on online gamers and adapt more quickly to a rapidly changing market. They also want more political certainty, as the potential of a no-deal Brexit means some not only incur additional costs for storing goods, but are unsure of the impact of tariffs at the end of this. year. Merchants also want more investment in city centers to help them adjust to changing trends, as well as a reduction in high parking fees, which they say discourage shoppers.

What does the government do?

In the Queen’s December 2019 speech, the government announced plans for further reform of trade tariffs, including more frequent reassessments and an increase in the discount for small retailers, pubs, cinemas and music venues. at 50% against a third. It has also set up a ‘future shopping streets fund’ of 675 million euros under which local councils can bid up to 25 million euros for regeneration projects such as the renovation of historic buildings. premises and improved transport links. The fund will also finance the creation of a street working group to provide expertise and practical support to local areas.

What are the prospects for 2020?

Some retailers could go bankrupt. Weakened by a tough Christmas that accounts for the full annual profits of many retailers, and with further potential Brexit swings to come, retailers face another tough year in 2020. The latest national minimum wage hike in April will rise also costs and will hit profits. On the bright side, there are hopes for the housing market to revive thanks to increased certainty over Brexit after the general election. There are also signs that the shift to online shopping is slowing, which could ease the pressure on main streets.

Sarah butler


Photograph: Matthew Horwood / Getty Images Europe

York was the hardest hit, with 55 net store closings in the first six months of the year, followed by Durham (43) and Corby (26).

Store closure data reflects a crisis on Main Street that has cost thousands of jobs as chains, run by already struggling fashion, mobile and betting stores, have closed.

During the period, Carphone Warehouse closed all 531 stand-alone branches and fashion chains such as Oasis, Warehouse, Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston all closed. Big names like Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser have also closed stores.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at Local Data Company, said: The first half of 2020 results are a stark reminder of the challenges retailers face in the first six months of the year, which included a national lockdown. .

She feared this was the tip of the iceberg, with 22% of chain stores still temporarily closed. With every week since retail and hospitality businesses were given the green light to reopen, the likelihood that these occupants are negotiating again in these units decreases.

She added that local lockdowns and other restrictions such as the 10 p.m. curfew would continue to have a devastating impact on the area, with more closures likely after the end of the main commercial holiday season.

Reports state: Unless new government stimulus measures were announced, there was a guarantee that further closures would be scheduled due to factors such as further restrictions on movement, the unwinding of the leave program this month and the end of the reduction in activity rates and VAT reductions for the hotel sector in March.

The data does not cover independent stores, which researchers say have likely seen a resurgence as more people worked from home and shopped locally during the pandemic. The report found that among chains, take-out and cafes were among the high-growth types of stores.

In regional terms, Greater London recorded the highest total number of 1,008 net closings, followed by South East England and North West. But Yorkshire and the Humber had the biggest loss of chain stores in terms of percentage, with 3.4% of net outlets on the verge of disappearing, compared to 2.2% in the east of England, which was the best performing region.

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The most affected places were shopping centers.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said the pandemic has accelerated existing changes in buying behavior as it forced experimentation during the lockdown.

We all knew that consumers were turning to online shopping or changing their priorities in terms of the products they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a radical shift in those underlying trends for become the new normal, she told me. We all want and need to physically visit stores and hobby operators, then it is likely that whatever happens, the retail business will come from this smaller but stronger.

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