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Shutting shops change UK high streets

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 02:32

Oct.18 - The UK is facing a crisis on the high street as retail chains closed 20 stores a day on average across town centres in the first half of 2012. The closure rate increased further in July and August, as retailers battle weak consumer confidence and rising rent costs, and that's changing the appearance of town centres. Joanna Partridge reports

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The changing face of the British high street. Gone are many jewellers, clothing chain stores and toy shops. In the first half of 2012, over 20 shops belonging to retail chains closed every day in the UK. That's according to a new survey for Pricewaterhouse Coopers. The closure rate even increased to 32 per day in July and August, says Mike Jervis from PWC. SOUNDBITE: Mike Jervis, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, saying (English): "It's nearly doubled from the first half of last year which is the corresponding period. Closures tend to be quite seasonal, you see less of them in the second half of the year coming up to Christmas. And undoubtedly there have been a lot of insolvencies this year, so things like Game, La Senza, Peacocks, all those stores have contributed to the numbers." These closures meant a net reduction of 953 shops across Britain in the first half of this year, compared with 174 stores in the whole of 2011. Most retailers are shrinking not expanding, closing poorly-performing branches or not renewing rental leases. PTC Empty shops are becoming a common sight across the UK. More often that not, new businesses move in. In the first 6 months of this year, 55 new pawnbrokers opened across Britain, there were also 50 new discount shops and 23 new convenience food stores. The trend is clear - value and charity over established and familiar. And at least the shops aren't remaining vacant. SOUNDBITE: Mike Jervis, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, saying (English): "Otherwise you get an empty high street and it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you've got half the high street empty, no retailers will be attracted there and the other retailers may indeed move out once leases expire. So it's really important that we do have some growth and people taking on leases that would otherwise be empty." Shops shutting isn't just a problem in Britain, retailers are also struggling in Italy and Spain. The latest British retail sales figures may have improved in September, but consumer confidence remains weak. And convincing shoppers to part with their cash this Christmas could be a matter of life or death for some retail chains. Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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Shutting shops change UK high streets

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 02:32