High street shops feel the chill from internet sales

Swaths of high street shops are likely to close their doors permanently, as shoppers continue to shun city centres, head online and spend more on experiences rather than products, according to the head of the retail industry’s trade body, reports Simon Neville in The Independent.

Helen Dickinson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium, also warned that the Government must address the “unfair burden” on retailers through business rates, in a year during which the national living wage and the apprenticeship levy will be introduced.

Predicting a rise in closures in the next one to two years, she said: “Vacancy rates were going up in the early parts of the recession, then they bottomed out last year. But we can expect more store closures in less “destination” parts of the country – and that’s where the Government needs to offer a solution to the burden of business rates.”

Her warning came as the latest BRC/KPMG retail sales figures for December showed like-for-like sales barely rose – up just 0.1% – and that was thanks to a 15.1% rise in online sales. Stripping out online, sales on the high street were in negative territory.

It meant the last three months of 2015 were the weakest of the year, primarily pushed by the supermarket price war.

Furniture and homeware were big sellers, with Ms Dickinson suggesting the purchasing of big ticket items, such as fridges and sofas, which was delayed due to the recession, was finally picking up.

She added: “Some of that increase in disposable income and confidence is going into experiences and leisure activities. I think that’s the changing psyche of the shopper in a market when people have much more information on price and comparisons.

“The competition is that much more intense and people are wanting more experiences and less stuff.”

Source: The Independent