Belfast Telegraph

15 shops a day forced to close by increased online competition

Online shopping has contributed to the closure of 15 high street outlets a day in the first half of this year, statistics show.

The figure, a slight increase on this time last year, comes as the high street has seen its lowest number of store openings since 2011, according to a report from PwC and The Local Data Company.

In the first six months of 2016, 2,656 shops closed, while the low number of new openings led to a net 503 stores disappearing from high streets, retail parks and shopping centres.

This is the highest net decline since the first half of 2012, when 953 more stores closed than opened.

The report said the advance of online shopping, which has led to an overhaul of retail store strategies for national chains, had contributed to the closures.

Tobacconists, health clubs and jewellers were among those growing at the fastest rate during the first half of 2016, and takeaway food shops along with American, Italian and Japanese restaurants have all thrived.

Fashion shops, banks, mobile phone shops and women's clothing shops have been among the hardest hit.

Matthew Hopkinson, director of The Local Data Company, said: "Chains are having to work harder than ever to guarantee store location, format and experience along with a strong web presence, social presence and logistical operation that delivers to consumers' ever increasing demands of 'now'.

"This is severely impacting profitability and hastens store closures.

"The spaces left by the traditional occupants of our high streets are being increasingly filled by healthcare operators, food and beverage operators and the ongoing rise of the discounters."