Cut in rate of retail closures

The surge in convenience store openings on Britain's high streets helped offset dwindling numbers of fashion shops and travel agents last year as the rate of retail closures eased sharply, according to figures.

The rate of retail closures has eased sharply, says a report
The rate of retail closures has eased sharply, says a report

Data from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Local Data Company showed that r etail chains with more than five outlets closed at a pace of 16 stores a day in town centres last year, down from 20 a day in 2012.

PwC hailed a "return in retail confidence" as the net reduction in stores - those opening less those closing - narrowed by almost 80% to 371 in 2013, down from 1,779 in 2012.

It said the marked shift among major supermarkets into convenience store retailing was the biggest positive trend last year, as grocers snapped up shops left vacant by the demise of big names such as Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster.

Convenience stores increased by 10% on a net basis last year, adding to growing numbers of charity shops, cafes, bookmakers, cheque cashing outlets and sports good shops.

Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, said: "The trend of net closures for 2013 is encouraging and signals a return in retail confidence."

But despite easing conditions , the figures mark the third year in a row of a net reduction in retail stores, down 0.57% overall.

The report showed photographic shops, women's clothing and fashion shops, banks, video libraries, travel agents, mobile phone outlets, recruitment agencies and shoe shops were among the biggest casualties in 2013 amid a shift towards online shopping and banking.

He warned that town centres were likely to continue to see net store closures as the switch online gathers pace.

He said: "Consumers are only at the start of the digital journey.

"Even though we may be on an upturn we expect the pattern of net store closures to continue well into the future."

Retailers were also dealt a blow in Wednesday's budget, with Chancellor George Osborne ignoring calls for widespread reform of business rates, which are seen as threatening the survival of many smaller shops.

The PwC report shows all regions across Great Britain saw a net reduction in multiple retail stores last year, except the east and south west of England, where numbers increased by eight and 15 respectively.

The West and East Midlands were the hardest hit, with 75 and 70 net closures respectively.