The number of High Street shops fell sharply last year after many more stores closed than opened, research suggests. The Local Data Company, which based its analysis on the top 500 UK town centres, said a net total of 987 high street shops disappeared in 2014, almost three times the 2013 total.

Overall, it said 5,839 outlets closed last year, equivalent to 16 a day. Clothes and shoe shops suffered the biggest declines, it said.

It found service shops such as opticians and travel agents also saw net falls in shop numbers, but leisure stores, such as food and drinks outlets, continued to thrive.

Coffee shops, tobacconists and charity shops were among those opening the most branches last year, it said.

The biggest losers by category were mobile phone shops, which saw their numbers drop by 419, with their decline accelerated by Phones 4U's collapse into administration.

Mark Hudson, retail leader at PwC which commissioned the research, said shop closures were likely to continue at their current rate, which was only a marginally slower than in 2013.

However in 2013 new shop openings helped to keep High Streets occupied. In 2014 there were fewer new stores opening.

"Customers are embracing new mobile technologies, traditional retail channels to market are being wiped out and new channels are being created, often in the online rather than the 'real' world," he added.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, also said he expected changes to continue. "The area to watch in 2015 is the battle of the convenience and food store sector as supermarkets, the discounters and pound shops fight it out," he added

Matthew will be delivering the opening keynote presentation at our Customer Engagement in Retail Directors Forum on March 26.


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