More than 850 retailers were lost from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in the West Midlands in 2020, a new report has revealed.
Research from PwC compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC) shows that 1,468 stores closed in the West Midlands last year – and 600 shops opened – meaning there was a net decline of 868 stores.
The region’s high streets fared the worst with 342 net closures, followed by standalone stores (294), shopping centres (188) and retail parks (44).
The report says the decline – which has been driven by the pandemic and changing shopping habits – is the “worst ever seen since 2015” with an average of 48 chain stores closing every day – and only 21 opening.
And experts warn that even more of the region’s stores could close in the near future as some retailers who are temporarily closed due to the pandemic are unlikely to reopen.
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Sarah Philips, Midlands consumer markets lead at PwC, said: “The full extent will be revealed in the coming months as many of the CVAs and administrations in the early part of 2021 still haven’t been captured, including department stores, fashion retailers and hospitality operators that will leave big holes in city centre locations.
“Retail and leisure operators must take action to ensure they are in the right places, so they’re not left surrounded by empty units and shopfronts. However, there will be big opportunities for growth into the gaps that are emerging. There is an opportunity for operators who can find the right location at the right time to thrive, even despite the current uncertainty.”
Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company (LDC) said: “2020 has been an undeniably challenging and transformative year for the physical retail and leisure landscape and the acceleration of chain store closures seen in our latest research is unlikely to surprise many.
“With the restrictions in place during each of the three national lockdowns, only 17 per cent of the market was classed as ‘essential’ and thereby permitted to trade.
“However, the damage to footfall in some city centre locations and particularly in London meant that a number of chains opted to temporarily shutter their stores irrespective of their ‘essential’ status.
“The question now becomes – have we seen the worst of the damage? These numbers only include store closures we know to be permanent and when government support schemes end, we expect a further increase in store closures before the picture starts to improve.”