Almost 10,000 chain stores disappeared from Great Britain’s retail locations in 2020. In total, 7,655 shops opened, compared to 17,532 closures, a net decline of 9,877, according to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).
Although a decline was to be expected during a pandemic, these figures are the worst ever seen, with an average of 48 chain stores closing every day, and only 21 opening. The findings starkly compare to five years ago in 2015, which saw a net decline of just over 1,000 shops, with 50% more openings and 25% fewer closures than 2020.
According to the report, the real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt as some stores ‘temporarily closed’ during lockdowns, but considered as open in the research, are unlikely to return. But while we wait to see the full impact of COVID-19 on store closures, its effect on consumer behaviours are driving changes.
Retail parks have seen the smallest number of net closures of any location (453), compared to high streets (4,690) and shopping centres (1,791). Footfall was already holding up better in retail parks before the pandemic due to their investment in leisure and some retail parks have benefitted by being anchored by essential retailers that have remained open, even during the tightest restrictions. But it’s also because they’re considered safer in the current environment: free parking means it’s possible to drive to the location (and avoid public transport), outdoor areas mean reduced indoor mixing and larger units allow for better social distancing measures.
Shopping centres by contrast, are often poorly located for consumers who want to shop local and travel less to city centres, and are more likely to host fashion retailers and chain restaurants, which were the first and third most hard-hit categories for net closures in 2020. Meanwhile, the drop off in high-street footfall has affected those multiple retailers located on high streets, particularly those in large city centres.