The latest figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers show a huge drop in the net closure rate of high street stores; however, much of that fall is due to an increase in openings, rather than a decrease in closures.
In the business consultancy’s report, it notes that the first half of 2012 saw 3,623 stores close and 2,670 open – a net decrease of 953 stores.
During the same period of 2013, 3,366 closed and 3,157 opened, representing 209 net closures, or a fall of about 80% overall.
But it is important to recognise that this is actually attributable to the rise in new openings; the gross closure rate dropped by just 7%, and an average of about 18 stores are being lost from the high street every day.
PwC retail specialist and insolvency partner Mike Jervis says: “The shifts in multiple retailers’ store portfolios are a barometer for changes in our society and its habits.”
For example, he notes: “Upticks in areas such as cheque cashing and pawnbrokers reflect a society where a sizeable part of the population is forced to turn to these types of borrowing for basic needs.”
However, some business sectors are bucking that trend, with significant increases in openings among some retailers who sell non-essential goods.
The single greatest rise in the first half of 2013 was in retailers who supply hearing aids, a category that grew by more than 16%.
But there were also increases in coffee shops (2%) and three-star hotels (12%), highlighting that there is still a profitable retail market for some of life’s luxuries.