The growth of ecommerce over the past few years has been well documented, a perhaps unexpected trend this year has been shoppers heading back to town centres and bricks-and-mortar stores.
A recent study by Legal & General found UK consumers visit their high street 81 times a year. This was highest in Glasgow (93 visits), London (92 visits) and Cardiff (87 visits). It also found that nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents noted they visit high street stores once a week.
When looking at the types of businesses they go to town for, 40% of visits were to supermarkets, 23% to charity shops and 21% to independent shops.
Consumers returning to high street across the UK will be welcomed by retailers after a challenging few years. The various Covid-19 lockdowns caused on average daily closures of 48 shops, restaurants, hospitality and leisure venues, according to Local Data Company and PWC.
Store closures vs store investments
Additional data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), published in July this year, estimated that there has been a loss of 6,000 storefronts within a span of five years. High street vacancies hit 13.9% in Q2 2023.
The BRC has stressed that the lasting impact of the pandemic and “crippling business rates” are behind the decisions to close stores and make retailers think twice about new openings.
“To inject more vibrancy into high streets and town centres, and prevent further store closures, the government should review the broken business rates system. Currently, there’s an additional £400m going on retailers’ bills next April, which will put a brake on the vital investment that our towns and cities so desperately need,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC.
Despite high business rates, some retailers have chosen to “inject more vibrancy” into their physical store portfolios this year.
The Fragrance Shop is set to open more than 100 stores over the next three years. While Poundland owner Pepco announced plans in October to open 400 new stores.
Trade omni-channel retailer Screwfix has continued to drive its expansion with another record year of store openings – 87 stores in the past 12 months (72 in the UK, 10 in Republic of Ireland and five in France).
M&S invested £480m in its shop network across the UK, with 20 new stores to be opened in the next financial year. And a post-pandemic recovery saw Monsoon unveil plans to open 22 new stores this year.
Furthermore, a UK extension is also on the cards for Spanish fashion brand Mango. It has revealed plans to expand its UK footprint with 13 new stores this year.
New stores will be located at major cities in the south and centre of the country including Bristol, London, Manchester or Leeds. The retailer will also debut in cities including Brighton, where it will open a 470m2 store in the Churchill Square shopping centre.