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Store vacancies rise as fashion becomes more 'cut-throat'

The number of bricks-and-mortar fashion stores fell by up to 5% year on year in some regions of the UK during the past 12 months, research by the Local Data Company (LDC) shows.

The number of fashion stores in Greater London declined by 2%, while Scotland saw the sharpest regional fall, down 5%. The East Midlands was the only region to show growth, up 1%.

The number of retail units on high streets and in shopping centres in the UK have both fallen by 3%, compared with those in retail parks, which have dropped by 1%.

Footwear retailers in particular have been badly hit, with the number of shops declining by 5% in the last 12 months.

Chains such as ShoeZone, Clarks, Ecco and embattled retailers Jones Bootmaker and Brantano have reduced their number of stores by up to 8%. A notable exception is Foot Asylum’s expansion to 52 stores, growing 18% from 44 in 2015.

In London and Scotland, the number of independent footwear stores has decreased by 6%, while the number of shoe shops located on retail parks nationwide has slumped by as much as 21%.

The LDC released the data to Drapers after revealing that the overall retail and leisure sector suffered a net loss of 1,650 shops in the 12 months to December 2016, which roughly equates to five closures a day. The study also found that twice as many small shops across the retail and leisure sector were revalued from below the business rates threshold to above, compared with from above to below.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “These trends are not surprising. Selling fashion goods has become very cut-throat.

“Online businesses have been performing well but remain a nightmare for retailers who are only seeing roughly 30% in returns. Meanwhile we are starting to see mega malls built in retail parks, as fast fashion continues to be driven by brand power.

“The overall results tell us that there has been a significant squeeze on consumer spend and confidence. Clothing retailers in particular need to be more experimental in promoting their brands. It is a challenging market, and clothing is a key anchor for high streets.”


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