Nearly 650 shops and restaurants, run by a handful of major chains, have shut since the start of 2018 or are at risk of closure.
According to analysis by BBC 5 live’s Wake Up to Money, Maplin and Toys R Us sites account for half that total, while other retail giants and restaurants have started shutting sites and announced closure plans for later in the year.
While jewellers only account for a small number of the closures this year, jewellery retailers left on the high street are concerned by what this means for them.
“What happens when there is a tipping point in the high street and most other retailers don’t need to have shops?” shares Dipples managing director, Chris Ellis. “If there aren’t shops on the high street people aren’t going to come into Norwich to my shop if there is nothing else in the city.”
Footfall has rapidly been on the decline since Brexit, with figures for last month citing the steepest decline in eight years. Meanwhile, the online shopping has surpassed expectations in the first quarter of the year.
With jewellers already battling with the internet, empty units and a lack of retail offering on the British High Street is not encouraging consumers back to traditional retail.
When Professional Jeweller visited Oxford earlier this year a couple of independent retailers raised concerns about empty units being filled with poor-quality stores which do not help attract consumers to the city.
Payne & Son managing director, Max Coppock, explained: “The main problem is the independent units are just being filled with rubbish and yet another gift shop.”
The BBC’s analysis shows that cities have borne the brunt of these retail insolvencies, but towns across the UK have also been affected. Many already have a high shop vacancy rate.
Later on this year, Carpetright and New Look will be closing store, alongside restaurant chains Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo and Byron Burger.
Furthermore, Marks and Spencer is in the middle of a store closure plan and will shut six by the end of April, while a further seven will close later this year.
Debenhams is also considering closing sites around the UK.
Looking ahead jewellers are honing on omnichannel retail, streamlining the business so the name above the door becomes known online and on the high streets, and enhancing the customer experience so shoppers have a reason to chose bricks and mortar over the internet.
Jeremy France director, Harriet France, shares: “I don’t think it’s going to be an easy year. I think it will be quite challenging. We are looking at streamlining our brand and consistency to bring everything together as a recognisable and familiar independent family name.”
“It is going to be a tough year,” echoes Judith Hart of Judith Hart Jewellers. “For us as a business we are looking at our IT, social media and marketing, and that is going to be a drive for us this year.”