Almost 2,500 shops lost from top 500 UK high streets in 2018

Stores, banks and other businesses disappear at fastest rate since 2010 – PwC survey

Chain stores are disappearing from UK high streets at the fastest rate in at least nine years as shoppers switch to buying online and rein in spending.

A net 2,481 stores, banks and other high street businesses disappeared from Britain’s top 500 high streets last year, 40% more than in 2017, as only 3,372 shops opened and 5,833 closed, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC). The figures do not include independent outlets.

Lisa Hooker, the consumer markets leader at PwC, which has backed the survey since 2010, 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 marked reduction in openings has accelerated the net closure trend. In categories as diverse as fashion and financial services, new entrants are able to gain share by launching online – enabled by technology and consumer adoption of mobile and e-commerce – rather than be saddled with the costs and risks of opening on the high street.”

Banks, fashion retailers and value retail groups underwent the biggest reduction in outlets as the collapse of Poundworld and fashion groups including East, Blue Inc and Jacques Vert was accompanied by mass store closures by New Look. Major banks, including HSBC, RBS and Lloyds, have closed hundreds of branches, leaving gaps on many high streets.

Restaurants and pubs also suffered, with a net 506 outlets closing, reversing three consecutive years of growth since 2015. Carluccio’s, Jamie’s Italian and the burger chains Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have all downsized amid a crisis in the casual dining sector.

PwC said market saturation, rising costs and a shift towards dining and drinking at home had not only prompted closures but also discouraged new openings.

However, there was growth in gyms, bookshops, ice-cream parlours, vape shops and cake shops as high streets move towards entertainment, experiences and indulgent treats rather than everyday shopping.