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Regional high streets at risk from 'multiple losses'

Large retailers are leaving regional high streets up and down the country at risk of having vast swathes of empty properties as they shrink their store portfolios, Drapers can reveal.

Arcadia Group has reportedly launched a review to explore options including a raft of store closures. The company has closed 210 shops over the last two years.

Meanwhile, Debenhams is currently negotiating with landlords on plans to close around 50 stores. Marks & Spencer is shutting more than 100 stores, New Look will close 100 UK stores under its company voluntary arrangement (CVA), and some House of Fraser stores may close in the coming months. 

New nationwide research compiled exclusively for Drapers by the Local Data Company (LDC) reveals the levels of voids left by these closures. It shows that 36% of Arcadia stores and 43% of the Debenhams are in locations where the store vacancy rate within a 200-metre radius is above the British average of 11.5%. A total of 87% of Arcadia stores have a New Look within 3 km.

More than one-fifth of Debenhams stores (21%) have a House of Fraser within 3 km. In the towns with a Debenhams, 33 also have a House of Fraser. Since the start of 2017, 11 M&S stores have closed within a 200-metre radius of a Debenhams.

Smaller towns, such as Bootle and Skelmersdale in the north-west of England, which have less affluent people, will suffer

Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at LDC, said the data highlighted the need for attention to be focused “on locations that may experience multiple losses over the course of this year”.

Store closures by numbers 2

Property sources told Drapers that regional high streets in the north-west of England and small, underperforming towns will be worst hit by the closures.

“Smaller towns, such as Bootle and Skelmersdale in the north-west of England, which have less affluent people, will suffer,” said Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs.

“But there are so many places across Scotland, Wales and the north-west that will be affected, too.”

One property adviser agreed: “Shopping centres and high streets in the north-west and the Midlands that are ‘anonymous’ because they are badly run, do not have good parking and do not offer a good customer experience will be hit next.

“Basingstoke [pictured] and Camberley [in Surrey] are environmentally obsolete, which makes customers think, ‘I don’t need to be here’.”

However, another property source said the regional risk profile was more complex: “In some cases some of the stores are too small and others are just too big, while others are simply non-profitable. We can’t simply just say that poorer locations will be the worst hit.”

One property agent said business rates need to be reduced for regional high streets to survive: “It will be down to the quality of the town and [secondary locations] will go. To save regional high streets, the government needs to lower business rates.”


Readers' comments (2)

  • What does ‘environmentally obsolete’ mean? Festival Place shopping centre in Basingstoke is in the top 50 centres in the country.

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  • Business rates being lowered will be a folly. They will help to a degree in the immediate term, but nobody can solve the problem that the kids generally do not want to shop in stores, however good they are. So after a year or two, what will the stores want then? Everyone is fighting a losing battle, the ones that will succeed are the ones that no how to wind down their businesses without actually noticing.

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