Signs of tattooed vigour on the British high street

Not a week goes by without a tale of woe at another UK retailer, as groups struggle to cope with the pressures on Britain’s high street. In recent weeks House of Fraser has changed hands, Marks and Spencer has closed stores, and jobs are under threat at DIY retailer Homebase.

But it is far from row-upon-row of boarded-up shops. Research from the Local Data Company shows UK vacancy rates have remained at about one-in-10 shops since 2015.

The LDC analysis highlights that the retail backdrop is undergoing a transformation. While some sectors are facing an existential crisis, others have been quietly flourishing by acquiring retail space.

Retail (Sizzler) chart

Take the British institution of the local pub, for instance. Since 2015, about 5 per cent of pubs have closed, according to LDC data, as supermarkets offer increasingly cheap deals on alcohol to encourage drinking at home and high property prices have led pub owners to cash in on their buildings.

But their demise has opened the door to a host of tea rooms and coffee shops, occupying their space and filling the gap for consumers.

Banks and travel agents have quit the high street in droves as online competition has made these businesses unprofitable.

But in the past three years, barber shops, beauty salons and tattoo parlours have increased their presence by about 20 per cent, offsetting falls in the number of banks and travel agents.


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