Bank branches closures are ‘speeding up the decline’ of our high streets

The Barclays Bank branch in Eaton, which is to close. Bank branch closures are hastening the decline

The Barclays Bank branch in Eaton, which is to close. Bank branch closures are hastening the decline of other high street traders, a new report says. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The recent raft of bank branch closures is hastening the loss of local shops on the high street, new research suggests.

A survey released by Nottingham Building Society found that 46% of shop owners blame the loss of a local bank branch in the last three years for negatively impacting their business, while 24% said it contributed to them going out of business within the last five years.

Small business owners are suffering as a result of lower footfall, with around 36% of consumers saying they would make fewer visits to their town or village once their local bank branch closed.

Around 40% said they would make at least three fewer visits a month as a result.

The Nottingham Building Society last year opened seven new branches in East Anglia, including in Thetford, Dereham and Fakenham, where it took on premises vacated by the withdrawal of the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society.

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Shop owners in areas affected by branch closures estimate that their annual revenue dropped by an average of 20% after the bank shut its doors.

It also found that 26% were looking at moving their businesses to a new area or smaller premises nearby, while 31% say they are considering shutting their high street stores and operating solely online.

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The survey noted that 15% were mulling job cuts.

Gary Womersley, head of branch network for Nottingham Building Society, said: 'Financial institutions play a major role in local high streets drawing customers to shops and boosting sales and business.

'This is particularly true in market towns, where much of our focus is placed. Sadly, there are now as many as 1,500 towns in the UK that used to have branches but no longer do.'

A government report released earlier this year shows that 1,270 bank branches were closed between 2014 and 2017, with 650 cut last year alone.

Further closures have since been announced by the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland, which has confirmed it will close 162 branches across England and Wales.

Lloyds earlier this year also announced plans to shutter 49 branches across its Lloyds and Halifax brands between July and October.

A separate study by the Nottingham Building Society released last month projects that a further 2,400 banks could close, putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

'We're seeing campaigns in the media calling for people to embrace their high streets and we fully back that but also recognise the need to evolve,' Mr Womersley said.

'Expert advice and great service is integral to the strength of our branch network supporting our unique 'all-under-one-roof' strategy that offers building society and estate agency services to our customers.'

The society's research has been part of a campaign to highlight the value of bank branches to local towns and businesses, having doubled its network of branches to 67 over the past five years.

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