High streets in Cardiff and South Wales are being taken over by pound shops and bookies as major retail chains shut down stores, new research shows.
The retail sector is battling some of its toughest ever challenges – with consumer confidence in a slump and growing competition from online shopping.
Increasingly, major national chains are cutting costs and shutting stores, with mini supermarkets, charity shops, convenience stores and credit unions taking their place – as can be seen on Cardiff’s St Mary Street.
The research from PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) and the Local Data Company illustrates how much the high street has changed since the credit crunch hit in 2007.
Retailers in Wales, England and Scotland closed an average of 14 stores a day combined, with bookshops, electricals, home furnishing, menswear, off-licences, bars, pubs and travel shops the hardest hit in 2011.
In South Wales towns, after a burst of activity in 2010, the number of chain shop openings slowed in 2011, according to the data.
Last year, there were 76 shop openings in Welsh towns, compared to 146 the year before – although Cardiff’s performance pointed to the impact of St David’s Shopping Centre’s opening on the data, with 103 shop openings in 2010 and 51 in 2011.
The data also showed that in South Wales there were 57 shop closures in 2010 and 73 closures last year.
The crisis in the retail sector has continued into 2012, with Cardiff-based fashion chain Peacocks the highest profile high street casualty since Woolworths went into administration in 2008.
Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions, and parent company the Peacock Group, collapsed under a debt mountain in January.
Indian textile and clothing giant S Kumars Nationwide (SKNL) is understood to be the only remaining suitor for the business.
Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold last month in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures.
Other retailers such as Thorntons, Barratts Priceless, Blacks Leisure and Thomas Cook all announced administration plans and job losses in 2011.
Rob Lewis, PwC regional chairman for Wales, said a common feature of retailers in trouble was that they have too many locations.
He said: “Relatively long leases have been entered into in a growth phase of the economy which are no longer appropriate.
“Where over-expansion has already taken place, retailers need to face that reality and formulate a strategic plan in partnership with landlords, not in confrontation with them.
“Retail is increasingly becoming a partnership between the store group, its suppliers and the owners of its locations.
“Like any partnership which falls on hard times, dialogue involving all partners is key.
“The rise in convenience stores is due to them being a growth platform for supermarkets needing to meet consumer demand for local shopping outlets where it’s easy to do regular big shops as well as ‘top up’ and have easy access to fresh produce.
“Electricals and bookshops have suffered as these products are now increasingly bought online but retailers in this sector are typically carrying unnecessarily large property portfolios.”
Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, added: “In the past, the closures were offset by openings but 2011 has shown a true decline in multiple retail and leisure outlets across Great Britain.”
He added: “With the move to out of town locations and the numbers of closures being announced currently, this decline is likely to continue into 2012 and thus lead to a rise in vacancy rates.”
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