Retail slide continues in Scunthorpe and Hull as Grimsby holds its own

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 10 Apr 2019

Scunthorpe's retail slide continued throughout 2018, latest statistics show.

The town lost a higher percentage of its shops than any other urban centre in the Yorkshire and Humber region, according to data release by PwC and the Local Data Company.

With grave concerns surrounding the future of Debenhams, an anchor tenant for the upturn on the outskirts of Scunthorpe, the drop from 148 outlets to 132 will feel particularly sharp.

It made for a 10.8 per cent reduction, and follows on from the half-year figures that painted a similar story back in November. Full year showed 20 closures and just four openings.

Hull city centre, where another precarious Debenhams stands, saw units drop from 313 to 292, a 6.7 per cent decline, with 33 openings and 54 closures, while Hull's Hessle Road and Grimsby, both stayed constant in 2018.

Hull City Centre earlier this year. Butcher Crawshaws has just survived, having been bought out of administration, but many haven't.

The analysis is pulled out of the top 500 high streets, with a loss of 1,772 stores in these areas nationwide.

The rate of store closures in 2018 remained at 16 stores a day. However, the shortfall between openings and closures reached its highest level since analysis began in 2011, as withdrawals from the high street were further dented by a historic low number of store openings.

Statistics highlighted a slowdown in leisure, in particular restaurants and pubs, which posted a net loss of 506 outlets, reversing three years of consecutive growth since 2015. Market saturation, cost challenges, and a shift in consumer preferences towards in-home leisure have exacerbated the impact on the sector, not only leading to closures but also discouraging new openings.

Efforts to increase footfall may bring some respite for Scunthorpe, however, with North Lincolnshire Council and social housing provider Ongo both moving to town centre locations. The new market has also opened, which may entice more visits too.

DIFFERENT ERA: The Cheeky Girld help launch Scunthorpe's HMV in 1993, when we still bought CDs - though not necessarily theirs - rather than streamed. 

Joel Smith, PwC’s Yorkshire and North East retail leader, said: “2018 was another turbulent year for the regions retailers. Coupled with the growth in online and high occupancy costs impacted by business rates, these contributory factors collectively led to more store closures across Yorkshire & Humber’s high streets with the highest net fall in the number of stores seen since 2013.

High street banks and discount retailers were the hardest hit, followed by categories most affected by online purchases; fashion and computer games, recruitment and estate agencies.

“There is still undoubtedly an important role for the high street to play, and it’s vital that if high street retailers hope to claw back market share, not only do they need to look for new

ways of achieving growth and make smart changes to ensure they are not left behind, there is also a need for the government to reconsider how business rates impact retailers,” Mr Smith added.

Hope springs eternal for Grimsby, having fared better than most in a grim set of statistics for regional high streets. 

Looking at the first quarter of 2019, LDC data finds that closure rates remain high as 1,358 outlets alongside 849 openings. This is a direct consequence of CVA’s, store downsizing and administrations announced in 2018 feeding through across the country.

Zelf Hussain, restructuring partner at PwC, commented: “Several national chains weathered company voluntary arrangements or administrations as retailers toiled in the tough climate of 2018. Retail companies looking to survive let alone flourish in 2019 face an uphill battle.

“We have already seen several casualties in 2019 and there will undoubtedly be more, most likely in all categories except for groceries. Those retailers who will give themselves the best chance of survival must focus on having the relevant proposition, and the investments needed to deliver this proposition; the optimal mix of channels and business portfolio; flexible leases.

“Additionally, we believe CVAs are not the answer in isolation. Companies need solutions that fully address customer needs, represent sustainable cost savings and, if needed new money investment to bridge the lag between the cost of a restructuring and long-term performance improvements.”

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