High streets lose 85,000 re­tail jobs as traders feel the pinch

The Observer - - News - Sarah But­ler

Up to 85,000 re­tail jobs dis­ap­peared from Bri­tain’s high streets in the first nine months of this year af­ter a surge in the num­ber of busi­nesses go­ing bust and clos­ing stores.

Nearly 1,000 busi­nesses – from big em­ploy­ers such as House of Fraser, Evans Cy­cles and Pound­world to in­de­pen­dent traders – went into ad­min­is­tra­tion be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to new data seen by the Ob­server, the high­est num­ber in five years. A fur­ther 26 big com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing New Look, Car­petright, Mother­care and Home­base, opted to close stores – up 73% on the same pe­riod last year.

The fig­ures raise fur­ther fears about the fu­ture of Bri­tain’s high streets, where the num­ber of premises ly­ing empty soared by more than 4,400 in the first six months of 2018, ac­cord­ing to re­tail anal­y­sis firm Lo­cal Data Com­pany.

Retailers are un­der pressure as shop­pers buy more goods on­line, and the cost of run­ning high-street premises is be­ing hit by rises in busi­ness rates and the le­gal min­i­mum wage.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics, 80,000 re­tail jobs were lost in the first half of this year, with losses now be­lieved to be up to 85,000.

Rachel Lund of the Bri­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium said: “We are see­ing more com­pe­ti­tion and higher costs on the high street, cou­pled with a long-term de­cline in foot­fall as con­sumers shop on­line. The govern­ment should take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to halt the ris­ing cost of busi­ness rates.”

With rates due to rise again in April, she said min­is­ters “should plan for a whole­sale re­form of our bro­ken busi­ness rate sys­tem”.

Tough trad­ing con­di­tions saw thou­sands of shops close.

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