Covid-19 drives UK shop closures to record high

The results show twice as many stores closed in 2020 compared with 2019

The coronavirus pandemic has driven shop closures to record highs in 2020.

According to the data, configured by Local Data Company and PwC UK, 11,120 chain outlets have shuttered in 2020 – from January to August – with only 5,000 shops opening, creating a net decline of around 6,000, almost double 2019’s results.

The findings show that Covid-19 has been instrumental in stepping up consumers' move to online shopping during the enforced lockdown when non-essential retailers were ordered to close.

“We know that the pandemic will continue to impact the way we work, rest and play, however, in terms of how we shop this isn’t new,” said Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets Leader at PwC.

“What we have seen is an acceleration of existing changes in shopping behaviours alongside ford experimentation from Covid-19 restrictions.”



“We all know that consumers were shifting to shopping online or changing their priorities in terms of the things they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a step change in these underlying trends to where they have now become the new normal,” she added.

However, the firm said that, despite the closures, the openings represent an existing demand for retail, hospitality and services that can only be delivered in person.

“While it’s challenging for many, these results do prove a few positive things,” continued Hooker.

“Firstly, there’s been a resurgence of interest in local high streets. The practicalities of lockdown and the increase in working from home mean that independent shops tend to be located where consumers increasingly are.”

Meanwhile, PwC’s Devolved and Local Government Lead Partner, Jonathan House, said a unique opportunity has been presented for a new high street.

“There’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine high streets that are at the heart of our local communities and local economies,” he said.

“This high street won’t go back to how it was and can’t recover through the retail sector alone.

“Businesses, communities, local and central government need to come together and create liveable, vibrant and different places where people want to live, work and visit.”


'Retail’s challenging year'

Analysis:
By Becky Bargh
Senior News and Social Media Reporter


Prior to 2020, high streets were already struggling to stay afloat as the rise of online shopping and crippling business rates forced businesses to close.

But the coronavirus pandemic has driven many more retailers to the brink.

Earlier this year, retail tycoon Mike Ashley warned more House of Fraser stores, which he bought in 2018, would close if the government did not give businesses a 12 month hiatus from the tax.

Harrods and John Lewis are among the luxury retailers to have laid off staff this year due to the effects of Covid-19, while the latter has shuttered multiple stores and expects to close part of its headquarters.

Meanwhile, Boots reported a 16% downturn in sales for 2020 despite being able to remain open during the lockdown.

But rising from the ashes are discount supermarkets and budget retailers.

Earlier this year, Poundland began its ‘biggest transformation’ to date, with a delivery service and e-commerce platform.

Also, benefitting is Next, which has expanded its beauty offering by buying out Debenhams’ former stores.

Since the purchase in the summer, the retailer has opened four standalone beauty and home halls this month.

Companies