East of England lost more high street shops than any other region in first half of 2017

PUBLISHED: 08:54 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:47 13 November 2017

Shoppers in Norwich. 

Shoppers in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

The East of England suffered the highest number of high street shop closures in the fist half of the year of any English region, according to new research.

A total of 222 stores closed in the East in the first six months of 2017, compared with 188 store openings in the period, leading to a net decrease of 34 – the biggest drop in the UK after Scotland.

The research, compiled by the Local Data Company for PwC, shows the number of high street shops facing closure has dropped to its lowest level since 2010 – but is still equal to the UK losing 14 bricks and mortar chain stores every day.

Analysis of 67,521 chain stores – accounting for those with more than five national outlets – across 500 town centres in Great Britain showed that there were 2,564 store closures during the first six months of the year.

Charity shops, shoe stores, gift shops and women’s clothing retailers were the hardest hit over the period.

The number of closures outstripped the 2,342 shop openings during the first half of the year.

However the net difference between closures and openings has “shrunk significantly” to 222 stores versus the net loss of 503 stores in the first half of 2016, and is the smallest figure since the same period in 2013, when 209 more stores closed than had opened.

Mike Jervis, an insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, said the “relatively low” number of closures over the period reflected a “more stable environment” and proved that consumer confidence was more resilient than had been expected.

Stores that have previously seen notable high street declines have also started to reach an “equilibrium”, according to PwC, with general fashion stores, banks and cheque cashing shops recording their lowest number of net closures in three years.

But tobacconists, coffee shops and beauticians saw a relative boom, having seen their presence on the high street grow at the fastest pace among their peers in the first half of the year.

Ice cream parlours were also amongst the winners, thanks to openings by chains including Ben & Jerry’s and Kaspa’s Creams.

But Mr Jervis warned that the retail sector could still face trouble.

“The environment is, of course, uncertain, with recent data showing a more challenging retail environment. I expect net store closures to be an ongoing feature of the market.

“Retailers will choose specific closure stores very carefully and will aim to capitalise on leases expiring in the ordinary course of their businesses.”

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