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Better research needed to inform high street strategy

The high street could lose a further 5,000 stores nationwide in the next five years if current trends continue - but better research would give us a clearer understanding of where the risk lies.

Multiple outlets in town centres throughout Britain could decline by 13% by 2018, working on the basis of “current assumptions”, the Local Data Company and University of Oxford have said.

However, both organisations noted that “such analysis is simplistic – the reality is much more complex, given the relative growth and decline of particular categories”.

The LDC highlighted how, for example, women’s clothing has seen a marked decline of 6% for indies and 13% for multiples between 2011 and 2013 while second-hand or charity shops have increased by 12.4% and pawnbrokers, pay-day lenders and betting shops have increased 17% in that time.

Further research is necessary to establish potential “trajectories for town centres”.

Jonathan Reynolds, academic director at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, part of the University’s Said Business School, said: “The most successful high streets will need to be increasingly diverse and adaptable places, and not just in terms of their retail offer. Services also play an important role in attracting shoppers. And so there are some good news stories in our analysis, as well as some more sobering insights.”                   

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “The decline of a town centre may be seen by some as only the increase of vacancy rates but for others, including Ed Milliband, it may be considered as the decline of occupational quality or a significant number of one type of offer which is deemed as undesirable.

“Knowing what and where this is happening is half the battle. This research shows that this is possible and our future plans intend to highlight the ‘at risk’ locations of the future.”

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