In the first half of 2015, more shops closed than opened for the first time in the past five years, according to new research from the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) and the Local Data Company (LDC).
Since 2010, the net number of independents has grown, adding more than 7,000 extra shops to the high street. But now, according to bira and LDC, ‘the high street has run out of road’.The number of openings of independents has remained fairly consistent, at about 15,000 a year. But closures have been accelerating. And this year they have caught up with – and overtaken – openings. Every region in the country reported a fall in numbers in the first half of this year, with the exception of the north-east, which recorded a tiny net gain. Independents as a whole fell nationally by 144 – but in the first six months of 2014 they rose by 289. This compares with a gain of over 3,600 in 2011.
Bira deputy ceo and communications director Michael Weedon commented: “The (relatively) good times are no longer rolling. Prices in shops have been falling for more than two years – faster than inflation measures such as CPI. The costs of employing people and occupying property continue to rise ahead of inflation. Six out of ten shop leases are due for renewal, or not, by 2017 – and the end of a lease is the most frequent cause of the closure of a shop.
“When the Chancellor makes his Autumn Statement on November 25 and reports on his next set of conclusions about the future of business rates, this should be in the forefront of his thinking. If he does not announce a fundamentally helpful reform of this damaging tax, which bears disproportionately on retail, this trend towards shop closures will accelerate. And if he does not renew the £1,500 discount for small retail and leisure businesses, small business rate relief and the small business multiplier for next year, then he could trigger a crisis that will drive the high street back to the bad old days of five years ago.”