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Published on March 18th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Largest net decline in chain stores as deficit approaches 10,000 for the first time

Over 17,500 chain stores closed in 2020, with the impact of the pandemic yet to be felt.

According to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), the blow to shopping destinations across the UK was lessened by the opening of 7,655 shops, leaving a net decline of 9,877.

Although a decline was to be expected due to the onset of the pandemic, PwC said “this is the worst ever seen, with an average of 48 chain stores closing every day and only 21 opening”.

The findings compare starkly to five years prior (2015), which saw net decline of just over 1,000 stores, 50% more openings and 25% fewer closures than in 2020.

Retail parks recorded the smallest number of net closures of any location (453), compared to high streets (4,690) and shopping centres (1,791).  

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets lead at PwC, said: “For the first time, we’re seeing a widening gap between different types of locations: city centres and shopping centres are faltering, but certain retail parks with the right customer appeal are prospering. 

“Location is more important than ever as we see a reversal of historical trends. For years, multiple operators have opened more sites in cities and closed units in smaller towns. As consumer behaviours and location preferences change, partly as a result of COVID-19, retailers are moving to be where they need to be.

“Small towns will remain important but we can expect recovery in cities as workers and tourists return, albeit in smaller numbers adopting more flexible working models.”

The real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt, as some stores temporarily closed during lockdowns – but considered as open in the research – are unlikely to return. But as Hooker points out, much of the impact we’ve seen this year is a reflection of things that happened before the pandemic, including the move online, which surged due to Covid-19.

“The full extent will be revealed in the coming months as many of the CVAs and administrations in the early part of 2021 still haven’t been captured,” Hooker said.

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