A record number of shops closed in Britain last year with 16 stores closing a day, but bookshops are bucking the trend.
A record net 2,481 stores disappeared from Great Britain’s top 500 high streets in 2018 and in total 3,372 shops opened, compared to 5,833 closures, compared to 2017’s net loss of 1,772 stores, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ research.
The shortfall between openings and closures reached its highest level since the beginning of the decade, as withdrawals from the high street were further dented by a historic low number of store openings, with the increasing cost of occupancy, shift to online and subdued consumer spending taking their toll.
Despite the widespread decline, bookshops took second spot of the biggest growth categories after gyms with ice cream parlours, vaping and tobacco shops and cake shops rounding off the top five net risers of 2018. Bookshops reported a net change of 18 units with 42 openings and 24 closures, according to figures from the Local Data Company.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:“The high street of the future will be a more diverse space, not solely dependent on stores. The analysis reflects this with the net growth of gyms and sports clubs, ice cream parlours and cake shops, in addition to initiatives to bring more shared office spaces and homes into what were traditionally shopping areas. However, it’s clear that the rate of openings is not currently enough to offset the closure of traditional retailers and services, so some tough decisions will need to be taken in the next few years.”
Booksellers Association m.d. Meryl Halls welcomed the research and but warned “booksellers can’t save high streets by themselves” and called on the government to ensure the high street survives.
Halls said: “We are delighted that the PwC report confirms the strong showing for bookshops on our high streets that the BA highlighted earlier in the year, and we continue to be immensely proud of the hard work and creativity by booksellers that has led to this situation, and of the BA campaigns such as Books are My Bag which have helped it come to pass.
“However, repurposing the UK’s high streets is a complex business, and the government has to think sensitively and creatively about how to strike a balance between creating vibrant community hubs – which the best high streets are – and supporting poorer performing high streets who might need longer term and deeper solutions.
“Booksellers are creative and deft, but they can’t save high streets by themselves. We need to work in collaborations and civic partnerships with others to ensure our high streets survive and flourish, and we need government to recognise the enormous part high street retail plays in the culture and economy of the UK and act to support it, partly through business rates reform, which currently clearly unfairly favours online and out of town retail.”
Earlier this year, the BA reported a second year of growth in its independent bookshop membership, with 15 new shops joining the trade body in 2018. The BA's numbers swelled to 883 independents last year, a 1.7% rise from the 2017 total of 868, marking the second consecutive year the BA has seen an increase in independent bookshop members.