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Record Retail Store Closures for 2020

17th March 2021

New research has shown that a record number of retail stores were forced to close their doors in 2020 due to the pandemic, with more to follow in 2021.

Research undertaken by PwC and the Local Data Company has shown that 17,532 retail chain stores closed permanently last year and only 7,655 new store locations were opened.

This averages to 48 stores closing and only 21 opening each day; there was an overall reduction of 9,877 stores across the UK in 2020, the highest in recorded history.

Some of the most notable names to shut their doors for the final time were Carphone Warehouse, Debenhams and the Arcadia Group. The latter’s well-known brands, Topshop and Burton, have been bought by online retailers ASOS and Boohoo respectively.

As a trend, retailers in city centres have felt the most pressure, and are the most likely locations to have closed permanently. Indeed, the usual customer base for these businesses have been forced to shop closer to home to avoid public transport.

Almost one-third of closures were attributed to London and South East England, areas that were typically seen by retailers as the most prosperous regions for trade despite having the highest rent levels.  

These figures arrive after recent statistics by the Centre for Retail Research estimated 182,564 jobs have been lost in the retail sector over the last year (an average of around 3,511 a week).

However, even with government support measures in place to secure non-essential shop survival, following their permitted opening date of 12th April, it is expected that the high frequency of store closures will continue.

Some temporarily closed stores have been classified as ‘open’ in the research (which does not account for independent retail businesses). It is predicted that many of these will struggle to open their doors again next month.

Furthermore, it is believed that the high street and indoor shopping centres will be less popular than they were before the pandemic. Retail parks are now seen as safer options for customer activity, with small towns also benefitting from the ‘stay local’ government order.

Additionally, the research also shows that a large number of retailers were suffering before the pandemic impacted footfall levels. Certainly, many commentators have cited how the boom in online shopping had significantly impacted “bricks and mortar” retailers well before their stores were forced to close last year.

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