Exodus from high streets as retailers shut up shop

Slew of leases coming up for renewal sparks new warning of closures over next three years

Retailers could walk away from half of their shop leases in the next three years, dealing another devastating blow to struggling British high streets.

After a late dash to the shops on Christmas Eve by shoppers keen to take advantage of early sales promotions, town centres and shopping centres must prepare for a further wave of desertions, according to new figures by property experts Jones Lang LaSalle.

A glut of retailers signed up for 20-year leases on shops in the 1980s and 10-year leases in the 1990s, creating a flood of renewals on the horizon.

Across a sample of 10,000 shops, Jones Lang LaSalle found that 25 per cent of the current leases were due to expire by 2013 and 50 per cent would expire by 2015.

The number does not include break clauses where retailers also have the right to walk away, meaning that they can simply close these shops or hold out for better terms and cheaper rent from landlords.

Guy Grainger, head of UK retail at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: "This means retailers will be in a much stronger negotiating position with landlords. Rents will head down and retailers will have the option to leave altogether or negotiate for a cheaper rent."

The survey comes as struggling chains have made plans to shrink their high street presence. Electrical retailer Dixons, travel agent Thomas Cook, HMV entertainment stores and the chocolatier Thorntons are all closing branches. Even Sir Philip Green, the Top Shop-to-Miss Selfridge billionaire, has said he could close up to 260 outlets.

James Brown, head of retail research at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: "These figures include prime and non-prime locations and are on top of the existing 14 per cent average vacancy rate in town centres. By 2015, the retail market will be in more of a realistic recovery phase so, in some instances, there will be rental growth still. But certainly some of these leases will be renewed at lower rents and some will be vacated."

The rise of internet shopping and "click and collect" services mean that retailers which used to want 400 shops in the UK now need far fewer.

Gavin George, European managing director at retail restructuring firm Great American, said: "A retailer with only 50 shops and a good online business can reach 75 per cent of the UK population within a 20-minute drive."

Retailers will this week count the cost of Christmas trading season, with many beginning – or continuing – their new year sales today.

Deloitte forecasts that this has been the weakest December for the high street in several years. It predicts that food and non-food retail sales in December by value – excluding fuel but including VAT – will be flat to slightly lower than last year. This compares with a 1.9 per cent increase year-on-year in December last year.

December 2009 saw a 3 per cent increase, although this followed a weak December 2008, when sales by value rose only 0.3 per cent year on year.

Many of the country's most successful retail businesses are looking to expand overseas as their main growth route, including Marks & Spencer and Paul Smith.

Andrew Ware, a partner in corporate finance at BDO, said: "Expanding UK retailers don't want stores in Hull. They are opening stores in South Korea and Azerbaijan. With an online presence they need fewer UK shops."

Rent was due last week and another batch of retailers are predicted not to survive the week, leaving further empty shops across the UK.

Mr Brown concluded: "We have not yet seen the true effect of this shift in demand on our retail landscape, but the next 24 months are likely to see a swift and dramatic change."

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

C# .NET Developer (PHP, Ruby, Open Source, Blogs)

£40000 - £70000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# .NET ...

Data Analyst/Developer (Good education, Data mining, modelling,

£40000 - £70000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Ana...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor