72 bookshops closed last year, research says

New research has put the number of bookshops closing in 2011 at just over 70.

Data from the Local Data Company on behalf of tax and accountancy firm PwC showed that from January to December 2011, 72 bookshops closed, although 57 opened, giving an overall reduction of 15.

On average, 14 stores a day closed in the UK last year, with bookshops, electricals, home furnishings, menswear, off-licenses, bars/pubs and travel shops among those affected, according to the research. For the first time, multiple retailers showed a net decrease of 0.25%, from a net increase of 1.2% in 2009 – an overall reduction of 174 shops.

Mike Jervis, an insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, said one reason bookshops were in decline on the high street was because they were typically carrying “unnecessarily large property portfolios.” He said: “A common feature of retailers in distress who we are dealing with is that they have too many locations. Relatively long leases have been entered into in a growth phase of the economy which are no longer appropriate.

“Where over-expansion has already taken place, retailers need to face that reality and formulate a strategic plan in partnership with landlords, not in confrontation with them. Electricals and bookshops have suffered as these products are now increasingly bought online but retailers in this sector are typically carrying unnecessarily large property portfolios.”

By contrast, stores which are on the rise in the UK include convenience food stores, supermarkets, charity shops, pawn brokers, credit unions, pound shops and shoe shops.

Christine Cross, chief retail advisor to PwC, said: "Inevitably, the reduction in consumer confidence and growth in online spend has placed pressure on retail return on space. Like-for-like retail sales are no longer a sound measure - the real measures are earnings per share or profit for non-listed groups. Those companies who try and drive like-for-like will push new store openings to the point of exacerbating too much retail space, inflating stockholding and reducing returns.”

The Booksellers Association has written to all the local council chiefs in the UK to call for action to bring down business rates and come up with plans to reduce parking costs to help bookshops stay in business on high streets.

BA c.e.o Tim Godfray called for “dynamic and innovative action” from local councils, saying: “Under new legislation shortly to be introduced by the coalition government, local authorities will soon have the flexibility to introduce local business rates and to give discounts.  A reduction in the business rate would greatly help booksellers to balance out the differences between high street and internet retailers.”

The PwC research also showed a regional breakdown of stores openings and closures, which revealed London had the greatest number of net closures totalling 101 in 2011, with the West Midland seeing the fewest with 17 net openings.