Store Openings and Closures - 2021

Author PwC

This resource reports findings from PwC’s 2020 Store Openings and Closures survey, which gives a sense of how the pandemic has impacted retail across Great Britain. It finds there has been a record net decline in stores (-9877); but that isn’t the main story presented. Instead, it is documented how retail fortunes depend on location with, for example, local high streets experiencing a ‘mini-renaissance’ during the pandemic so far.

Date added 30 March 2021
Last updated 30 March 2021

This resource reports findings from PwC’s 2020 Store Openings and Closures survey, which draws on data from the Local Data Company, and gives a sense of how the pandemic has impacted retail in Great Britain so far, with a focus on multiple retailers (5 or more outlets nationally). In terms of headline statistics on retail fortunes during the pandemic, which is set to further unfold in 2021, it is reported that in 2020 there was:

  • A record net decline in stores (-9,877)
  • 17,532 store closures
  • 7,655 store openings

However, the resource indicates how it is important to also acknowledge differences between locations and regional disparities; for example, whilst the North East saw a net decrease of -415 stores in 2020, in Greater London this figure stood at -1,795, with London experiencing a record 5.8% increase in net store closures. Further, PwC finds that, in part due to a greater concentration of chain retailers, London and the South East account for 1/3 of the decline in all shops in 2020.

The study also found that, larger city centres are faring worse during the pandemic, impacted by more people working from home, with smaller local high streets experiencing a ‘mini-renaissance’ during the pandemic so far. These smaller towns outside of London have seen fewer store closures, with larger city centres seeing an almost -8% net drop in multiple retailers, commuter towns -5.6%, seaside towns -5.1%, and villages -4.1%. Certain retail parks are also prospering, in part due to some being anchored by essential retailers.

PwC also report how we are seeing differential impacts of the pandemic on retailer type, confirming how we are witnessing changing consumer behaviour in terms of people wanting to support smaller local independent retailers who have seen them through the crisis. Convenience retail and local service providers have also been more resilient to the pandemic, as has convenience leisure (e.g. coffee shops and takeaways). Whereas, fashion retailers have been more vulnerable to the crisis and ongoing online shopping trends.

The report concludes that we are yet to see the full effects of the pandemic on retail in Great Britain, with pre-pandemic trends having impacted some of the above. However, they advise that being in the right location at the right time will be paramount to future recovery.