One in 10 chain shops in Scotland still closed six months after first lockdown, says PwC

One in ten chain shops in Scotland is still closed six months after the lockdown in the first half of 2021, with about 100 closing permanently, according to new research.

The report from PwC and the Local Data Company however also found that “in a sign of increased resilience”, the number of shops reopening their doors following the third lockdown was higher than after the initial closure in spring 2020, while temporary closures almost halved.

Those behind the study also say retailers who have returned to trading will be hoping for a strong festive period, but because of import delays and staff shortages they risk a Christmas supply crunch, and landlords and occupiers are being urged to negotiate early.

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The research, which tracked activity across 1,863 Scottish outlets, shows that the rate of reopening following the end of the third lockdown period, which began on January 5, and remained in place until around the end of June, increased by more than five percentage points on the first lockdown, with 88.5 per cent of all chain stores reopening when restrictions were eased.

The report has found that 99 chain shops closed permanently. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images.
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Of the remainder, 4.7 per cent (equivalent to 99 shops) closed permanently, and 6.8 per cent (114) remained closed temporarily, largely because of owners deciding the costs related to opening outweighed the potential revenues.

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In comparison, the first lockdown led to 4.6 per cent of all chain stores in Scotland closing permanently, with 12.4 per cent remaining shuttered temporarily after restrictions were eased.

High streets “took the brunt” of all closures, with 5 per cent of all shops on Scotland’s main thoroughfares closing permanently and a further 8.2 per cent remaining shut temporarily.

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The authors of the report said this means 86.9 per cent reopened, compared with 90.2 per cent of shopping-centre stores and 94.2 per cent of retail-park outlets, reflecting changing shopping habits.

The study also found that other shops – those on suburban city streets, in smaller towns and villages and transit locations – had a reopening rate of 87.2 per cent, with just 3.1 per cent closing permanently.

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After the first lockdown, 82.9 per cent of shops in Scotland reopened, and after lockdown three, the rate increased to 88.5 per cent – with the trends in Scotland “reflective” of the rest of Britain, according to the research.

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Jason Higgs, head of retail at PwC Scotland, said: “With the pandemic accelerating the shift to online retail, it’s encouraging to see so many outlets emerge from the third lockdown by opening their tills. However, as we enter the crucial festive trading period we may still be influenced by emerging Covid variants, and retailers are facing a Christmas crunch with potential shortages of stock driven by import logjams and staff shortages.

“Trading costs, from rents to employees to utilities, continue to mount up, and for the bigger players, difficult decisions will need to be made over high-cost but high-revenue flagship stores in city centres.

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“The near future will see companies further respond to changing consumer and employee trends and business needs, while discussions between landlords and tenants will have a huge say in how our high streets and shopping centres look – it’s never been more vital that landlords and occupiers negotiate early.”

The latest report comes after the news that COP26 disruption hit footfall to Glasgow shops.

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