City high streets buck trend as more stores open

The Capital’s high streets are bucking the trend towards online shopping – with 39 more stores opening in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2013.

Edinburgh saw a net loss of only two stores. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Edinburgh saw a net loss of only two stores. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Data analysis by professional services network PwC found Scotland’s retail sector to be among the most resilient in the UK.

But while the net reduction of shops between January and June this year was two and a half times greater than during the equivalent period in 2013, figures for Edinburgh show the Capital enjoying a net increase of 39 stores.

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Research showed a net reduction of only seven shops owned by large retailers in cities and large towns north of the Border in the first half of this year – compared with a net reduction of 406 shops across the UK. A total of 140 stores brought down the shutters in Scotland, with 133 new ones opening.

Aberdeen and Perth both recorded a net increase of three stores, with Glasgow and Paisley reporting a net uplift of one store.

In contrast, Dundee saw a net drop of seven stores, while Ayr had a net drop of five and Edinburgh saw a net loss of two stores.

In England, only London and the east of England saw positive growth. From January to September there was a sharp decline in the number of shops on UK high streets.

Across the UK, fashion stores and shoe shops were among the hardest hit, while bookies, pound shops and coffee outlets thrived. Retail experts said the changes reflected a move to online shopping as consumers embraced the internet and smartphone apps.

Martin Cowie, private business leader at PwC, said: “While the pace of online sales has slowed slightly this year, the digital revolution and consequent change in customer behaviour is well under way – figures still far outstrip store sales growth for most retailers, from a much higher base.

“Based on this, we would expect to see multiple retailers continue to approach openings in town centres very cautiously. This is likely to mean shorter-term leases and more temporary type formats, particularly in secondary locations.”

Mark Hudson, retail leader at PwC, added: “We’re heading for a high street based around immediate consumption of food, goods and services or distress or convenience purchases. I’m not sure that’s what customers really want, but consumer and business economics are pointing in that direction at the moment.”

Garry Clark, head of policy and research at the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The nature of the high street is changing to adapt to shifting consumer demands. In future town centres will need to be about more than retail.

“They will need to encompass residential and commercial presences and become more active outside of the traditional nine to five hours. Customers are shopping smarter and businesses and planners must respond creatively.”