High street retail in the United Kingdom (UK) - Statistics & Facts

One of the biggest changes associated with the retail industry in recent years has been the rapid growth in e-commerce sales. This has created a large degree of uncertainty about traditional shopping formats, as many retailers worry about the future of the brick-and-mortar store. In the United Kingdom (UK) concerns about the future of the high street are ever-present, with online sales now accounting for 21.5 percent of the country’s total retail sales. These worries have consolidated by declining footfall and sales figures seen on the high street in recent years. Both in 2017 and 2018, footfall in retail centers dropped in every month, while sales experienced declines as high as 10 percent in 2018.

Another factor contributing to the so-called death of the high street has been the increasing number of store closures across in the country. In 2016, town center locations saw a net closure of 373 stores, a notable increase on the previous year, when there were 362. In some regions, such as Wales and the North West, vacancy rates in retail centers are as high as 10 percent. Store closures are effective across a range of different sectors, with popular retail categories, such as women clothes shops, convenience stores and shoe shops, ranking among the top ten.

That said, it is not all doom and gloom for the high street: many locations are still thriving. This is particularly the case in London, where areas such as New Bond Street, Covent Garden and Oxford Street are rated the UK’s prime retail locations based on rent. Outside London, retail centers in Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester also perform well, reaching the highest retail spend potentials in 2017, at 4.26 billion, 3.74 billion and 3.53 billion British pounds, respectively.

From the consumer side of the issue, high street seems to be losing its popularity to online competitors. According to the results of a survey conducted in 2018, people shop more frequently at physical stores , for fashion and footwear retail, yet online is also becoming a regular in consumers’ shopping habits. The ongoing struggle high street locations across the UK find themselves in is also perceived by the general public. Consumers were worried about their local high streets and store closures at alarming rates. In addition, many consumers felt that high streets were in need of improvements, in particular regarding areas such as variety and quality of shops, business rates and parking sports offered to consumers.

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High street retail in the United Kingdom (UK)

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Retail traffic and sales

Store openings and closures

Consumer behavior


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