Web services continue to hit high streets hard
CAFéS and ice cream parlours are thriving while banks and estate agencies continue to close as the region’s high streets suffer from online services.
The West Midlands saw a net loss of 144 retail outlets during 2017 (338 openings and 482 closures) according to new figures. This compared to 2016 when the region experienced a net loss of 60 stores.
In Birmingham, there were 70 new openings last year including high profile names such as jewellery brand Tiffany & Co and furniture retailers Heal’s and Made, but the city waved goodbye to shoe shop Jones Bootmaker and branches of Lloyds and Halifax among 79 closures.
The analysis, by financial services firm PwC with researchers Local Data Company, said booksellers, cafés and ice cream parlours all thrived, but sectors such as banking, estate agencies and travel agencies are suffering as the shift to online shows no let-up.
Other success stories on the high street included beauty product stores and tobacconists.
Andy Lyon, leader of PwC’s retail and consumer practice in the Midlands, said: “2017 has proved to be one of the toughest trading periods West Midlands retailers have experienced in years, borne out by a 9.1 per cent rise in store closures with high street names such as Store Twenty One going into liquidation and others such as Maplins and Toys R Us facing the same fate.
“We saw volatility from month to month and across different sectors as wage growth failed to keep up with inflation, forcing many shoppers to think more carefully about their spending habits.
“On top of this, many retailers are increasingly feeling the impact of the acceleration of online shopping as consumers begin to feel more comfortable with the price transparency and reliability of delivery options offered by online players.
“Digital offerings are increasingly becoming make or break in areas like fashion but also for banks, travel agents and estate agents – all of whom closed a significant number of high street stores last year.”
Looking ahead, he added: “We’ve already seen a tough start to 2018 but it’s important to remember the British high street still plays a vital role in society and that there are elements of growth among the headline numbers of decline.
“Retailers and leisure operators need to continue looking at their businesses – including their store portfolios – to make sure they have a clear brand and product offering.
“The winners at the moment, such as nail bars, coffee shops, bookstores and craft beer pubs, are all flourishing because they serve the needs of emerging consumer segments.”
The report tracked 5,124 outlets on high streets, retail parks and shopping centres across 32 town and city centres across the West Midlands and operated by multiple retailers – those with at least five shops nationally.
> Toys R Us was one of the closures