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West Midlands high street store openings increased slightly from last year but in decline from 2015, as digital demands and appetite for experiences continue to redefine high streets…

Submitted by on April 20, 2018 – 7:30 am |


Andy Lyon (2)-Net loss of 144 stores from West Midlands’ high streets in 2017

-Hereford saw the biggest increase in store closures

-Walsall the only area with a net growth of 2 stores

-Some parts of the leisure sector are thriving, with Satellite TV shops, speciality coffee shops, ice cream parlours and booksellers all opening a number of new premises across the region

-Fall in bank, estate agent and travel agent numbers reflect rising customer demand for online and apps

West Midlands’ high streets ended 2017 with 144 fewer retail outlets than at the beginning of the year, PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC) reveals. The decline is around two-and-a-half times worse than 2016, when the region experienced a net loss of 60 stores

The analysis tracked 5124 outlets in the West Midlands operated by multiple retailers* in  32 town centres across the region.  The data show that from January 2017 to January 2018, 338 shops opened on high streets, retail parks and shopping centres – but there were 482 closures.

The data also show that the second half of 2017 saw substantially more closures and fewer openings than the first six months of the year, reflecting a tough trading environment including a slowdown in consumer spending, rising staff and business rates costs, as well as a slowdown in food and beverage growth as consumer confidence reached a four year low in December 2017 (Source: GfK).

Nationally, These findings equate to a net loss of 1,772 stores disappearing from Great Britain’s town centres in 2017.

The growth on the high street was driven by beauty product stores, coffee shops, cafés & tearooms and ice cream parlours, which contributed to the highest increase in net store numbers in 2017. Booksellers and tobacconists also had a good year, with physical book shops and vaping remaining popular with consumers.

Andy Lyon, Leader of PwC’s retail and consumer practice in the Midlands said:

“2017 has proved to be one of the toughest trading periods West Midlands retailers have experienced in years – borne out by a 9.1% rise in store closures with high street names such as Twenty One going into liquidation and others such as Maplins and Toys R Us facing the same fate.  We saw volatility from month to month, and across different sectors as wage growth failed to keep up with inflation – forcing many shoppers to think more carefully about their spending habits.

“On top of this, many retailers are increasingly feeling the impact of the acceleration of online shopping as consumers begin to feel more comfortable with the price transparency and reliability of delivery options offered by online players. Digital offerings are increasingly becoming make or break in areas like fashion, but also for banks, travel agents and estate agents – all of whom closed a significant number of high street stores last year. For these industries, store closures are less driven by the market environment and are instead part of much bigger structural changes happening, as customers increasingly expect to interact with their service providers online or via apps.

“We’ve already seen a tough start to 2018, but it’s important to remember the British high street still plays a vital role in society – and that there are elements of growth amongst the headline numbers of decline.

“Retailers and leisure operators need to continue looking at their businesses – including their store portfolios – to make sure they have a clear brand and product offering. The winners at the moment, such as nail bars, coffee shops, bookstores and craft beer pubs, are all flourishing because they serve the needs of emerging consumer segments, such as experience-seeking millennials and offer a differentiated physical proposition that online can’t compete with.

“The British high street is undoubtedly facing headwinds, but retailers are waking up to the challenge and reimagining the future. The winners will be those who are agile and open minded in working out the best way to ensure their stores differentiate themselves and earn their place on the high street.”

The analysis of the top 500 town centres in Great Britain included 67,157 outlets run by retailers with more than five outlets across the country. It found that overall volumes of activity (openings + closures) have plummeted from a record 13,109 in 2012 to 9,938 in 2017 (-24%), although 2017 activity was up slightly compared to 2016 when 9,964 outlets opened or closed.

Andy Lyon, continued:

“Many retailers are using restructuring and insolvency tools as a way to resize their store numbers. Survivors and thrivers will be those who address their cost issues and have a compelling ‘bricks + clicks’ offering to help them meet changing consumer trends and compete with online retailers who don’t have the same legacy cost issues.”

Hereford fared the worst over the period with 6 openings and 20 closures experiencing a net decline of -14, Birmingham saw 70 openings and 79 closures, a net decline of -9 stores and similarly Solihull saw 21 stores open and 27 closures a net decline of -6.  However, Walsall experienced a net growth of 2 stores from 15 openings and 13 closures.

Across the regions

Country/

Number of store openings

Number of store closures

2017 net change

English Region*

East Midlands

271

399

-128

East Of England

297

481

-184

Greater London

1,118

1,454

-336

North East

116

216

-100

North West

340

515

-175

Scotland

142

290

-148

South East

713

898

-185

South West

359

511

-152

Wales

104

157

-53

West Midlands

338

482

-144

Yorkshire and the Humber

285

452

-167

Total

4,083

5,855

-1772

 

Lucy Stainton, Senior Relationship Manager (Retail), The Local Data Company, said:

“There is of course no doubting that we are experiencing a period of great change in retail, and the question around the relevance and role of stores is still very much on the industry agenda. LDC’s latest figures show that there continues to be a vast amount of churn across the physical landscape and, whilst the gap between openings and closures has widened slightly in 2017, we are seeing certain sub-sectors really gain traction.

“It is this ‘re-occupancy’ and evolution of the use of space which is most striking, as banks become coffee shops, pubs change to nurseries and nail salons open in the space vacated by fashion shops. In 2017, the sub-sectors with the highest growth rates largely have ‘experience’ in common, as consumers are still very social and want to engage with their high streets and physical space in a way which perhaps replaces traditional shopping activities, some of which has moved online. Likewise, these corners of the retail landscape play well for consumers looking for more affordable luxuries as consumer uncertainty persists and spending remains of a cautious nature.

“It is also interesting to note that despite the onslaught of digital and audiobooks, readily available via the likes of Amazon and Apple, booksellers are on the list of 2017 ‘risers’. Perhaps unexpected but then again does this suggest there is hope for more traditional retailing of physical products, if done well.

“For 2018 we predict there will be continued green shoots of growth across almost all sub-sectors, visible beneath the headline trends, as newer entrants and younger brands take this ‘shake out’ as an opportunity to pick up available property. Businesses with a relevant proposition and a strong understanding of their customer can absolutely still thrive in the right locations. Equally more established brands who continue to tweak their offer and innovate on the way through will no doubt see positive results and retain their valued place on our high streets.”

 


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