UK store closures ‘surge’ after five-year low

UK net store closures increased last year as the retail market saw several British staples exit the High Street for good.

The figures come after closures dropped to their lowest rate since 2017 in the previous year, according to research commissioned by PwC.

While the data shows that more than 14,000 shops and outlets belonging to companies with five or more locations permanently closed in 2023, the analysis – carried out by Local Data Company (LDC) – suggests that the hike was largely driven by one-off failures, restructurings or administrations.

Data published by the Centre for Retail Research earlier this year found that 61 retailers went into administration in the UK over the 12-month period, impacting almost 21,000 jobs. Overall, nearly 120,000 people working in retail lost their jobs in 2023.

Hardware chain Wilko was one of several high-profile retailers that collapsed, closing all of its 408 outlets. The Centre said that this marked the biggest retail failure in terms of staff and store numbers since Woolworths shut down in 2008.

The research by PwC found that there were an equivalent of 39 closures per day last year, a slight increase compared with the previous year.

However, store closures were still lower than those recorded between 2016 and 2021.

PwC said that there is optimism that the surge in closures is "unlikely to repeat in 2024".

Deeper analysis of the research shows that a two per cent decline in retail chain outlets is also in line with the wider trend of more shopping services moving online.

PwC says it expects to see this nationwide trend continue for at least the medium-term.

"While the results suggest there are areas that need some intervention, we expect 2024 to be better overall, as closures revert to trend and the macro environment improves, but with the underlying long-term trend of online continuing to pull consumers from in-store locations," continued the Big four consultancy.

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