Customer Behaviour

Fashion chains and banks are being replaced by takeaways and gyms as the British high street evolves with consumer spending habits, a report said.

Research by PwC and the Local Data Company (LDC) said the face of the high street was rebalancing from shopping to leisure, with health clubs, vaping shops and jewellers seeing the fastest growth in bricks-and-mortar stores.

However, clothes shops, high street lenders and insurances agencies have faded from prime sites, as banking and clothes shopping moves online.

Mike Jervis, retail specialist at PwC, said the research underscored the “changing face of town centres”, with leisure and experience outlets on the rise.

He said: “The insatiable appetite for fast food and coffee shops fills the void left by banks, mobile phone and clothing shops.

“Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever, leaving closures in its wake.

“Last year was relatively benign for restructuring and insolvency in all sub-sectors of retail, so the net closures point to structural changes in customer behaviour more so than a consumer slowdown.”

In total, 4,534 stores opened in the UK last year and 5,430 closed, leading to a net change of minus 896.

It means more shops disappeared last year than in 2015 when the high street recorded a net change of minus 498.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said: “Town and city centres have seen the loss of chain retailers for the last seven years so it is no surprise to see this trend continue.

“Leisure (food and beverage) outlets is the only business category that has seen growth in 2016 but this has also seen the significant slowdown in openings which is perhaps a reflection of a bubble starting to burst after years of significant growth.”

Health clubs saw 90 openings and 44 closures last year, resulting in a net change of plus 46. Banks and financial institutions recorded 44 openings and 240 closures in 2016, with a net fall of 196.

The number of bank closures is likely to rise in 2017 after Lloyds announced last week that it was calling time on another 100 branches.

Research also found that eight department stores opened last year and 140 closed, delivering a net change of minus 132.

The fall was driven at large by the collapse of BHS, which closed more than 100 stores over the period.

For fashion stores, there was 239 openings and 406 closures in 2016, leading to an overall net drop of 167, with high profile casualties Austin Reed and Store Twenty One closing hundreds of stores over the period.

It comes as Jaeger filed for administration on Monday, putting 700 jobs and the future of its 46 stores at risk.

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