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    ‘5,000 stores closed at rate of 14 per day’

    (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

    Almost 5,000 more chain stores were left empty last year – a rate of about 14 closures a day, states a recent report as high streets were hurt by the failure of Wilko and the retreat of banks and pubs.

    The figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) for the advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed the rate of net closures was up by a third from 3,627, but far short of the post-pandemic peak of more than 10,000 in 2021. The figures do not include the many thousands of independent outlets trading in the UK.

    Pharmacies were the biggest loser with 787 chain outlets disappearing – although many of these were Lloyds outlets which were taken over by independents. Next in line were pubs with a net 722 closing, as Wetherspoon’s and Stonegate, the owner of the Slug and Lettuce brand, closed venues.

    Retail parks recorded a net increase in outlets while high streets fared the worst last year with a net 3.3% decline in the number of trading sites.

    The 9,138 new openings last year was the highest figure since 2019, and was almost entirely driven by new hospitality sites, PwC said, representing a bounce-back after the sector’s high closure rate during the pandemic.

    Chains closed 11,530 stores in 2023, driven by “one-off” restructurings and failures at big retailers, some of which had been struggling for years, PwC said.

    Banks closed a net 583 branches, with the likes of Barclays, Halifax and Lloyds focusing increasingly online.

    Kien Tan, senior retail adviser at PwC , hopes a better picture for this year as there has already been “a bit of a clear out” now in underperforming chains.

    Despite a high degree of focus on failing retailers, it is services that have driven closures over the last decade, he added, with services such as banks and betting shops closing at a faster rate as operations shifted online.

    However, there were now signs that trend was “bottoming out” he said.

    “[We] are probably getting to the point where closures of services are starting to slow down,” BBC quoted Tan as saying.

    Lucy Stainton, commercial director of LDC, stated, “Many larger operators were still repositioning and consolidating their portfolios as consumer spending remained cautious, resulting in more closures than openings.

    “Whilst we’re still facing sustained economic headwinds alongside some political uncertainty this year, the increasing store openings suggests we may see this gap close somewhat as we move through 2024.”

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