Research by the Local Data Company suggests that retailers face challenging times as our High Streets are changing yet again.
2017 saw the net loss of a total of 1,772 shops across Britain with Greater London and the South-East being hardest hit. The number of new store openings is at its lowest since 2010, and according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard, retail footfall took a nosedive during both March and April. Not since the 2009 recession has footfall declined to such a degree across a two-month period.
The ongoing wage squeeze with wage rises still trailing inflation, a wet April, more consumers opting to shop online, and an increased focus on leisure activities rather than retail spend have all been cited as reasons for the tough conditions retailers must battle this year.
Clothing and shoe shops closed at the fastest rate, with banking, travel agents, and estate agents also taking significant hits, leading to a situation where almost one in ten town centre shops is now standing empty.
The challenges for retailers are real, but it’s not all doom and gloom, and elements of growth remain. Beauty salons, coffee shops, ice-cream parlours, and bookshops step in to fill the empty spaces, and while four pubs across England and Wales close every week, three new ones open.
While overall retail footfall declined during March and April, post-5pm footfall actually increased over the last two weeks of April as the weather got better and many consumers opted to spend the evening outside the home.
Retailers who know their customers well, adapt to the changing spending habits, and time their marketing and offerings just right can still do well. Just as a number of younger brands and new retail businesses have started to take advantage of lower costs for High Street stores.