Why the threat of Arcadia failing is 'significant and far reaching' amid high street shake-up

The hope must be that some sort of rescue deal can be hammered out for Arcadia and its thousands of workers.

There are very few high streets or shopping centres without a branch of Topshop, Dorothy Perkins or Burton. Picture: Anthony Devlin
There are very few high streets or shopping centres without a branch of Topshop, Dorothy Perkins or Burton. Picture: Anthony Devlin

Its challenges are not new but have been exacerbated by the devastating impact coronavirus restrictions have had on the whole of the UK retail sector.

If Sir Philip Green’s retail empire does become another victim of the pandemic and the seismic changes taking place on the high street it will be significant and far reaching.

There are very few main streets or shopping malls without a branch of Topshop, Dorothy Perkins or Burton. Indeed, the group has more than 500 retail branches across the UK.

Richard Lim, chief executive at Retail Economics, the independent economics research consultancy, observes: “Clothing has been that the hardest hit sector with the disruption to the way we live, work and play undermining the need for new outfits for many consumers.

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“However, their demise has been accelerated because of an online proposition that falls way behind that of their competitors. Years of underinvestment in the digital channel has severely restricted their ability to trade successfully through this hugely difficult period.

“If this business does eventually fail, it will leave gaps across many of our high streets where they have occupied shops for decades.”

Rivals such as Debenhams have also had it tough of late, with many others downsizing store portfolios or cutting jobs.

Amid the onslaught of online retailing and changing demographics, many experts have been forecasting the death of the traditional high street in the coming decade. Others talk of a reinvention of the town centre, with less dependence on retailing. The virus has accelerated that change dramatically.

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Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia retail empire - including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins an...

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