Food stores replace fashions on high street

A flood of cafes and takeaways opening up across the country gave Britain’s ailing high streets a much-needed boost last year as the number of shop closures hit its lowest level since 2010. 

There were almost 500 fewer shops by the end of last year, as 4,640 openings were countered by 5,138 closures, according to analysis by the Local Data Company for PwC.

Womenswear retailers – which were hit by unseasonably warm weather late last year – and high street banks made up the bulk of the closures as consumers increasingly bank and shop online. 

The study revealed the lowest closure rate in five years at 13 shops a day, compared with the 2012 peak of 20 stores a day. More grocery and convenience stores opened while the growth in the number of charity shops slowed.

The report’s authors said the data was a reflection of “improving consumer confidence and the economic recovery” as low inflation buoyed sentiment.

But they sounded a note of caution. The administration of the shoe chain Brantano, and the now merged electricals retailer Dixons Carphone’s plans to combine more stores under one roof, meant 2016 would see a flood of newly empty shops. 

The PwC retail specialist Mike Jervis said: “The openings are concentrated on ‘experience’ type outlets, especially food and beverage, and I’d also expect to see more growth in discount store openings this year.

“Fashion has taken another battering and the closures testify to the proliferations of ‘me too’ retailers in this sub-sector, especially ladies’ fashion,” he added.

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