Retailers and unions are calling for urgent government action to help struggling high streets as new data shows the number of shops, pubs and restaurants lying empty is rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade.
About 16 stores closed their doors every day in the first half of 2019 while only nine opened, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 chain stores on Britain’s top 500 high streets according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and high street analysts the Local Data Company (LDC).
The decline, which does not include independent shops, was faster than the net 1,123 closures during the same period last year – after just 222 in 2017 – and is the highest recorded since LDC began monitoring high streets in 2010.
Wales was the hardest hit region, with a net 2.3% fall in store numbers – meaning one in every 44 stores in Wales closed its doors in the first half of this year. However, every region registered a decline in store numbers. The east of England, west and east Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber all reported declines of more than 2%, while Greater London and south-west England were just under 2%.The shop closure data reflects a crisis on the high street that has cost tens of thousands of jobs. The retail industry employed 57,000 less people in the three months to the end of August compared to the same period a year before, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It was the fifth consecutive quarter of decline.
“The government must address the growing crisis on our high streets,” said Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shopworkers union Usdaw, which has launched a Save our Shops petition. They pointed out that retailers account for around 5% of the British economy but pay about 10% of all business taxes and about 25% of business rates.
Usdaw also wants better support for communities and a minimum wage of £10 an hour to help protect 4.5m jobs in the retail sector.