More high street estate agency branches opened than closed in H1

The rise of online agency hasn't dented physical branch numbers yet...

102 new bricks-and-mortar estate agency branches opened in the first half of this year in the UK, while 76 closed… That’s a net gain of 26 high street agency branches in H1, despite all the headlines and banter about online services taking over from traditional “physical” offices.

PwC and the Local Data Company totted up shopfront activity in 500 regional town centres across the country to come up with the stats; only a few sectors – led by tobacconists, estate agents and jewellers – bucked a wider declining trend.

Risers Net Change (Units) Number of openings Number of closures Fallers Net Change (Units) Number of openings Number of closures
Tobacconists 28 60 32 Fashion shops -87 119 206
Estate Agents 26 102 76 Banks & Other Financial institutions -82 20 102
Jewellers 24 62 38 Clothes- Women -56 17 73
Takeaway Food Shops 19 48 29 Mobile phones -46 48 94
Restaurant- American 15 18 3 Recruitment Agencies -46 29 75
Health Clubs 14 39 25 Clothes- Men -39 15 54
Coffee shops 14 73 59 Cheque Cashing -35 6 41

That wider trend – 2,656 shops closed in the surveyed areas in the first six months of the year – indicated that 15 retail spaces closed per day day. This is a slight increase on the 14 stores a day reported to have closed in the first six months of 2015, although the number of new openings has also fallen, leading to a net 503 stores disappearing from high streets, retail parks and shopping centres in the first half of 2016. This represents the highest net decline since H1 2012, when 953 more stores closed than opened.

A retail migration to the internet is at the crux of the high street closures..

Madeleine Thomson, retail and consumer leader at PwC: “Despite the uncertainty and fall in number of store openings, consumer sentiment has rebounded following the post-EU referendum dip. With employment levels still high and price inflation yet to hit the shops, the majority of the UK public believe they will be better off in 12 months.

“If we look ahead to Black Friday and Cyber Monday (25th and 28th November respectively), upcoming research shows that 27% of consumers intend to make purchases, spending on average £203 over the weekend. Of this spend, 17% of will be in store (rising to 24% for over 55s).

“To increase footfall to their stores, it is key for retailers to ensure their in store offering and price point is relevant for the younger demographic who are particularly high users of online channels and very price savvy. Our Total Retail research shows that consumers value shop assistants with a deep knowledge of the product range, the ability to check stock quickly and to see and order online ranges in store.”

Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC: “We are seeing far fewer closures due to outright insolvencies, but more due to lower key restructuring of store portfolios. This is still having a negative impact particularly on the High Street – interestingly, units on retail parks are far easier to find alternative tenants for.

“The data covers the first half of 2016. Since then there has been more evidence of stress in certain parts of the retail sector as costs challenges begin to crystallise. These include foreign exchange rates, Living Wage pressures and business rates increases.

“These can be managed provided revenue is maintained – so consumer spending is key. The area where we expect most problems is in fashion retailing where recent data points to lower sales volumes.”

Greater London saw the biggest increase in net closures across all the regions. The capital’s net change increased to -164 stores in H1 2016, from -63 stores in H1 2015. Expected increases in business rate valuations in late 2016 may see this trend continue into H1 2017.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company: “The retreat of multiples from town centres across Great Britain continues, reflecting the wider changes happening in retail driven by the retrenchment of comparison goods retailers, especially in clothing and footwear.

“The role of the store continues to evolve. Provision of a seamless on and offline experience is key. ‘Click and collect’ is but one example of this.

“Chains are having to work harder than ever to guarantee store location, format and experience along with a strong web presence, social presence and logistical operation that delivers to consumers’ ever increasing demands of ‘now’. This is severely impacting profitability and hastens store closures.

“The spaces left by the traditional occupants of our high streets are being increasingly filled by health care operators, food and beverage operators and the ongoing rise of the discounters. Understanding the ‘who’ and ‘where’ when it comes to multiple retailers is the key to create the destination that leads to successful and healthy town centres.”

Opening and closures of multiple retailer units, 2010-2016

high street retail closures h1 2016