Scottish high streets lose 148 stores as town centres struggle

Written by Tom Freeman on 11 April 2018 in News

Shops and banks feel “digital pinch”, according to survey

High street empty units - Rob Brewer

Town centres across Scotland lost five retail outlets a week in 2017 amidst a tough trading environment, PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company has revealed.

While 142 stores opened across Scotland in 2017, this was offset by 290 closures, the figures reveal.

The net drop of 4.5 per cent was higher than other parts of the UK, which saw an average fall of 2.6 per cent.

PWC said “no town was immune to the trend of high street loss”.

Fashion shops, banks, convenience stores and travel agents saw the biggest losses, while there was a marginal increase in food establishments like cafes and coffee shops.

Lindsay Gardiner, regional chair for PwC in Scotland, said retailers who had combined their online and physical shops in a “polished” way had been the most resilient against the “digital pinch”.

“2017 has proved to be one of the toughest trading periods Scottish retailers have experienced in years - borne out by a 71 p0er cent rise in store closures with high street names such as Twenty One going into liquidation and others such as New Look and Prezzo closing outlets. 

“And so far this year, there’s been little sign of this pressure letting up with the ‘beast from the East’ and ongoing cold snaps taking their toll alongside other adverse business factors.”

Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said the Scottish Government could do more to support small businesses.

“Small businesses are essential to our economy and the lifeblood of local communities,” she said.

“To see such extensive closures of high street shops is not just deeply troubling, it is economically damaging.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson councillor Carolyn Caddick said: “The Scottish Government was supposed to have a "high street first" policy but they have ignored it time and again, for example by closing police counters and moving courts out of town.

“The policy is evidently not working but these closures also reflect the wider economy and the fact that Scotland is growing at a much slower rate than the UK as a whole.” 

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