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East of England among regions hit as UK loses 14 high street shops a day

PUBLISHED: 08:48 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:48 09 November 2018

Ipswich town centre  Picture: SUZANNE DAY

Ipswich town centre Picture: SUZANNE DAY

Retailers are battling the worst trading conditions in five years, with high street shops closing at a rate of about 14 a day in the first half of this year, a study reveals.

A study of 500 high streets by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Data Company found 2,692 stores have vanished in the first six month of the year - roughly 14 a day.

The rate is similar to the same period in 2017, although there has been a dramatic fall in the number of openings year-on-year.

Compared with 2,342 shops opening their doors in the first six months of last year, there were 1,569 openings between January 1 and June 30.

Greater London and the South East were the worst hit by closures of chains, followed by the Midlands, the North East and East of England, it found.

The growth of internet shopping, business rates, the rise of “in-home leisure” - people preferring to spend free time and entertain at home rather than go out and about - has been blamed for the challenging climate.

Italian restaurants including Jamie Oliver’s chain are said to have been particularly badly hit by the change, while retailers such as Toys R Us and Maplin have gone to the wall as more people shop online.

Ministers have been urged to take concerted action to help Britain’s beleaguered town centres, with experts warning the turmoil is “unlikely to abate”.

The Government said the recent Budget has “high streets at its heart”.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said the continued rate of store closures “reflects the new reality that many of us prefer to shop online and increasingly eat, drink and entertain at home”.

“The high street is adapting to an overcapacity in retail and leisure space resulting from these channel shifts,” she said.

“Openings simply aren’t replacing the closures at a fast enough rate. Specifically, the openings across ‘experiential’ chains, such as ice cream parlours, beauty salons and vape shops, haven’t been enough to offset closures in the more traditional categories.

“Looking ahead, the turmoil facing the sector is unlikely to abate. Store closures already announced in the second half of the year due to administrations and CVAs already will further intensify the situation.”

Toys R Us, Maplin, Poundworld and Coast have been among the major fatalities on the high street so far in 2018, while House of Fraser was rescued from administration by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley.

Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Homebase and Carpetright have undertaken closure programmes with varying scales.

New Look clothing chain announced earlier this year it would close 60 UK stores and cut 1,000 jobs as part of a financial restructuring.

Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) have been used with increased frequency as large and established chains struggle to adapt to the changing consumer landscape while being buffeted by headwinds including the increased costs from wages and rates.

Jamie’s Italian and Prezzo have announced CVAs, while Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Byron are also utilising the arrangements.

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