Fashion retailers have been hit the hardest by store closures on the high street as consumers continue to favour leisure and entertainment over clothing.
Fashion stores, department stores and men’s and women’s clothing shops made up four of the seven hardest-hit sectors in 2016, research conducted by The Local Data Company (LDC) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates.
Fashion stores experienced a net decrease of 167 units on the high street compared with 2015. Department store units decreased by 132 – a number that was amplified as a result of BHS’s store closures throughout the year. For women’s and men’s clothing stores, there was a decrease of 121 and 62 units respectively.
The research also showed that online sales accounted for 40% of fashion’s total sales last year.
Mike Jervis, retail specialist at PwC, said: “Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever, leaving closures in its wake. Last year was relatively benign for restructuring and insolvency in all sub-sectors of retail, so the net closures point to structural changes in customer behaviour more than a consumer slowdown.”
The research, which was conducted through a sample group of the top 500 town centres across Great Britain, found shops on the high street closed at a rate of 15 stores per day during 2016, a slight increase from the 14 stores per day recorded in 2015.
Madeleine Thomson, retail and consumer leader at PwC, said that in 2017 retailers will have to be more inventive to keep custom: “With prices on the up and less disposable income available to the average UK consumer, retailers will need to be versatile and savvy to increase footfall to their stores.”
She added: “Despite the fall in new store openings, consumers continue to place value on the in-store experience, with the number one in-store attribute being shop staff with a deep knowledge of their product range.”