UK shops close at fastest rate in five years in blow to retail

More than 11,600 of the shops that closed last year were part of larger chains that decided to cut costs

A business premises available to lease in York, England. Bloomberg
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About 47 sites shut up shop for the last time every day in 2022, marking a bruising year for the retail sector.

More shops closed their doors than at any other point for at least five years, according to new analysis.

A study by the Centre for Retail Research found that 17,145 shops on high streets and other locations across the country closed in 2022.

This was up by nearly 50 per cent on 2021, when 11,449 shops shut.

The group’s research found that a little more than 5,500 of the shops went under, while more than 11,600 of them were closed as a larger chain decided to cut its costs.

But the researchers found there had been a 56 per cent drop in shops being closed because larger retailers, with 10 or more sites, went out of business.

They said many of the chains that were going to fail already had in recent years. But Joules, McColl’s and TM Lewin among others still went under.

A Joules shop in Nottingham. PA

“Rather than company failure, rationalisation now seems to be the main driver for closures as retailers continue to reduce their cost base at pace," said the Centre for Retail Research’s director, Prof Joshua Bamfield.

Prof Bamfield said the trend was likely to continue this year, but added that a few “big hitters” could also go under.

The centre said that more than 151,000 retail jobs had been lost in the UK last year, including from online retailers. This was an increase of more than 45,000 on the year before.

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The real estate adviser Altus Group said that retailers and landlords would have to pay almost £1.1 billion ($1.3bn) from April 1 to cover the business rates on empty sites. These are sites that have been empty for three months.

“Rate-free periods need to be urgently extended to reflect the time that it actually takes to re-let vacant properties," said Robert Hayton, the UK president of Altus Group.

“The current woes facings the retail sector, driven by the war in Ukraine, mean that empty rates are ripe for modernisation.”

Updated: January 02, 2023, 12:01 AM