Is the shifting retail landscape putting our high streets at risk?
With big high street brands collapsing, closing stores and cutting jobs on an almost monthly basis these days, many of us are left wondering exactly what role the traditional high street will play in the future of retail.
Are retailers here in the North West at an elevated risk of going under? New research suggests they are.
According to R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, more and more retailers in this region are at risk of folding, with the number of businesses in this position rising from 28% to 36% in just six months. That brings the total at risk to 5,300.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, at least when you look at the bigger picture. North West shops appear to be more resilient than those in every other UK region except London and Northern Ireland.
Huge names have folded in recent months, among them millennial-beloved Toys ‘R’ Us, electronics business Maplin and Conviviality plc, the Crewe-based alcohol wholesaler and owner of the ubiquitous Bargain Booze chain.
Others, while not going under, have announced rafts of store closures. Carpet retailer Carpetright announced plans, earlier this month, to close 92 stores with the loss of 300 jobs following a review of its estate.
Commenting on the research, R3’s North West chair, Paul Barber said the heightened risk reflects the “tough conditions on the high street”, with consumer spending “relatively flat”, footfall declining and the recent cold weather “only [making] matters worse”.
Paul, who is also a partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “While shoppers are spending more online, e-commerce businesses are facing problems of their own.”
R3’s figures tell us that 33% of online retailers based in the North West are at risk, up from 29% six months ago. That’s equivalent to more than 1,600 businesses.
This comes as Shop Direct prepares to close three of its sites here and set up a base in the Midlands – a move that will impact around 2,000 jobs.
R3’s Paul had this to say about the steps a business could potentially take to move forward in a challenging environment: “As the retail landscape continues to shift, businesses need to find ways to adapt to the changing market.
“Many are already doing this successfully, for example by closing less popular stores and creating a more exciting in-store experience.”
Have you seen store closures near where you live? Or has your employer gone under in recent months? Let us know in the comments.