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. In 2017, footfall in retail centers dropped in every month compared to the previous year, while sales experienced declines as high as 5.2 percent.

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.

There is also a considerable proportion of the population which still prefers to shop in physical stores, although this share varies across generation groups. According to a 2017 survey, 17 percent of those in the Baby Boomer generation favored a store, mall or the high street to purchase goods, compared to 8 percent of Millennials and 5 percent of Generation Z. Among the factors which make consumers more likely to shop in retail stores are the convenient location, the immediate need for a product and the availability of in-store offers.

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