UK retailers with multiple outlets are opening nearly 50% fewer stores than they were five years ago and large jewellery retailers have failed to buck the trend where shop deficits are concerned.
That is the claim being made by a new PwC report which shows the shortfall between openings and closures reached its highest level since the beginning of the decade, as withdrawals from the high street were further dented by a historic low number of store openings.
On a category basis, only 15 out of 100 business types showed a net growth in outlets numbers, and only five categories showed net growth in double digits.
Categories traditionally amongst the risers in previous years, such as jewellers, have seen net declines in 2018 as overcapacity and economic conditions took their toll.
Greater London saw the largest number of net closures across all the regions. Scotland was the only region to see a drop in its net closures, dropping from -148 in 2017 to -119 in 2018. Wales was the best performing region, posting the lowest overall net decrease in chains of -59.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “The results are clear – 2018 was a turbulent year for retailers with a number of high profile store closures.
“We saw an acceleration in footfall decline on the high street with businesses continuing to see the impact of online shopping, increasing costs and subdued consumer spending.
“The high street of the future will be a more diverse space, not solely dependent on stores. It’s clear that the rate of openings is not currently enough to offset the closure of traditional retailers and services, so some tough decisions will need to be taken in the next few years.”
Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, said: “Several national chains weathered company voluntary arrangements or administrations as retailers toiled in the tough climate of 2018. Retail companies looking to survive let alone flourish in 2019 face an uphill battle.
“Those retailers who will give themselves the best chance of survival must focus on having the relevant proposition, and the investments needed to deliver this proposition; the optimal mix of channels and business portfolio; flexible leases.
“Additionally, we believe CVAs are not the answer in isolation. Companies need solutions that fully address customer needs, represent sustainable cost savings and, if needed new money investment to bridge the lag between the cost of a restructuring and long-term performance improvements.”