2,000 shops shut their doors across the North in first half of the year

Houndshill Shopping Centre

Thousands of shops have closed across the North during the first half of the year, research has shown.

In total 2,046 shut their doors across Northern high streets, retail parks and shopping centres between January and June, according to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).

During that time 865 shops opened creating a net decline of 1,181.

The overall net closure rate for the North was 374 lower (24%) than it was at the same point last year, despite some well-known high street fashion and department stores exiting the market in early 2021.

In the North West 982 shops closed compared to 421 openings and in Yorkshire & Humber there was a total of 738 store closures with 304 new openings in the region.

Nationally more than 8,700 chain stores disappeared from Great Britain’s retail locations in the first six months of 2021.

When compared with last year, the data suggests the rate of closures slowed down – with 11,120 shops shutting their doors in the first half of 2020 as the Covid pandemic hit, a net decrease of 6,001.

Despite the slowdown in net closures the flight from cities continues to contribute to the decline in multiple stores, with city centres now faring worse than commuter towns and villages (-4.3% vs -3.0% and -2.3%).

Footfall in cities is yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels as more people work from home and in the longer term move towards a hybrid working model.

Joel Smith, PwC partner and consumer markets lead for the North, said: “After an acceleration in store closures last year coupled with last minute Christmas tier restrictions and lockdowns extending into 2021, we might have expected a higher number of store closures this year across the North.

“Government support has proved to be the lifeline for many to weather the storm and survive the pandemic.

“The fate of many operators has also been helped by resilience in consumer spending, including investment in the home through lockdown and using enforced lockdowns savings for ‘revenge spending’ when possible.

“However, operators are far from out of the woods and the next six months will be a make or break for many chains, particularly with the reinstatement of full business rates for all but the smallest operators, the winding-down of furlough support and agreement yet to be reached between many operators and landlords on rent arrears.

“There is also continued uncertainty for hospitality businesses who will be apprehensive of further restrictions on operating and the possible requirement for vaccine passports later in the year.

“But the good news is that there are some green shoots of optimism. Consumers still want a physical shopping experience and a number of chain stores and restaurants are opening across the region.

“There is opportunity for operators who can be nimble, taking advantage of the current situation to either open new stores or to move stores to better locations.”