New figures reveal staggering toll of Covid on retail as 14,000 shops close

PUBLISHED: 13:51 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 30 September 2020

Laura Ashley was one of the many retail casualties. Pic: EDP

Laura Ashley was one of the many retail casualties. Pic: EDP


One in 10 retail spaces will never be used to sell goods again, according to a new report by a Norwich analyst.

Prof Joshua Bamford, director of the Centre of Retail Research in Norwich. Pic: EDPProf Joshua Bamford, director of the Centre of Retail Research in Norwich. Pic: EDP

Professor Joshua Bamford, director at the Centre for Retail Research in Rose Lane said 10pc of all shop space would need to be repurposed after 125,000 jobs in the sector were axed.

Fashion, home and non-food retailers have been the worst hit, said Prof Bamford, losing £9 billion in sales so far this year.

MORE: New retailers open in Chapelfield centre – as new changes revealed

The Centre For Retail Research also found nearly 14,000 shops have permanently closed this year - up almost 40pc on the same period a year ago.

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The findings come as a poll of 400 commercial property bosses found more than a third are already changing how their retail stores are used and a further 57pc are considering changes.

Those with strong online stores and businesses have managed to maintain sales, although those without have suffered.

Retail floor space, both occupied, vacant and to let, in England and Wales currently stands at 125,171,104 sqms, according to Altus Group.

The Centre For Retail Research said that, although some of the lost retail sales over the lockdown period were now being regained, 13,867 shops had pulled their shutters for the final time so far this year.

The high street has been hit hard by Covid with redundancies at Norwich department store Jarrold, including its chief executive, and at Debenhams. However, there have been new openings too with independently owned shops such as Artisan Chocolates by Saffire relocating to the Royal Arcade. Two new retailers have signed up in Chapelfield and many chains have also retained restaurants in Norwich compared to other places where they have shut.

Norwich has retained its Pizza Huts, Pizza Express restaurants and Bella Italia despite closures elsewhere.

But Professor Bamfield said the longer the work-from-home instruction was required, the bleaker the prospects. “There is no alternative to repurposing ... as much as 10pc of retail floor space might need to be repurposed in the short to medium-term but could be much higher in major cities eventually.”

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