Five shops every week close on Scotland’s high streets

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More than five stores a week are closing on the Scottish high street with “no town immune” from the carnage, a hard-hitting report today reveals.

A total of 290 stores shut up shop across Scotland in 2017, a rate of 5.5 per week, according to research for accountancy giant PwC, which also suggests that the country is suffering more than other parts of the UK. The study shines a spotlight on the opening and closure of stores run by major multiple retailers across key towns and cities, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley.

The high street has been hit hard. Picture: John Devlin

The high street has been hit hard. Picture: John Devlin

There were 142 openings overall last year, but the net loss of 148 stores is up by about a third from the 112 recorded in 2016 and no location has bucked the trend.

While 3,303 stores were in business at the start of 2017, that total had fallen to 3,155 by the end of the year.

The total figure for store closures across Scotland will be even higher since only certain towns and cities were included in the research.

The Scottish net change of -4.5 per cent is also the highest in Britain, which has an average net change of -2.6 per cent. Across Britain, the closure rate is 16 stores a day.

North of the Border, clothes shops led the closure list, with a 25.5 per cent drop, followed by travel agents (17.2 per cent), banks and other financial institutions (14.4 per cent) and shoe shops (8.5 per cent).

Food outlets had the highest increases in net store numbers with Chinese takeaways rising by 50 per cent, cafes and tearooms by 28.6 per cent and restaurants and bars by 8 per cent, illustrating the changing nature of the high street towards dining and leisure activities.

Glasgow had the highest overall number of stores lost with 53 more shops closing than opening last year, followed by Edinburgh on 29 and Aberdeen on 16.

Lindsay Gardiner, regional chair for PwC in Scotland, said: “2017 has proved to be one of the toughest trading periods Scottish retailers have experienced in years – borne out by a 32 per cent rise in store closures with high street names such as Twenty One going into liquidation and others such as New Look and Prezzo closing outlets.

“And so far this year, there’s been little sign of this pressure letting up with the ‘Beast from the East’ and ongoing cold snaps taking their toll alongside other adverse business factors.

“Online trading continues to be a significant factor in this shifting landscape – and not just in familiar areas such as fashion, food, books and music.

“Increasingly banks, travel companies and estate agents are feeling the digital pinch. However, high street closures tend to be due to more complex structural and cost efficiency planning than the overall market environment, with consumers increasingly looking to interact with their service providers via apps or websites.” 
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “These figures demonstrate just how challenging and volatile times are just now for Scotland’s retail industry, as evidenced by several casualties of late on our high streets.

“Retailers are having to contend with profound changes in shopping habits, squeezed consumers and spiralling government-imposed costs.

“These figures should serve as a wake-up call to government, with a far greater focus brought to bear on reducing the costs of doing business from retail premises.”

Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said small businesses are “the lifeblood of local communities.”

“To see such extensive closures of high street shops is not just deeply troubling, it is economically damaging,” she said.

“The reality is the SNP has not done nearly enough to support small businesses. Its shambolic business rates changes have sent many firms to the wall.

“The number of appeals against revaluations are through the roof – and thousands have still to be processed.

“If the SNP really cared about our economy, it would support our small businesses and invest in our economy.”

Liberal Democrat economy spokeswoman Carolyn Caddick said: “Busy high streets are so important to Scottish communities and it’s hugely disappointing to see them crippled by this tidal wave of closures.

“A store closes almost every day and the effect of this is especially pronounced in rural areas where access to services is already challenging.”