British retail store openings and closures - A reflection on 2017

Whilst there has been an acceleration in store closures, the British high street is adapting to the way consumers are shopping and spending their leisure time. 

2017 was a tough year for the British retail industry with store closures outstripping openings reflecting a slowdown in consumer spending and cost headwinds. However, there has been growth in the lifestyle-led sectors with beauty products, cafés & tearooms and ice cream parlours opening the most new stores in 2017. Booksellers and tobacconists also had a relatively good year, with vaping and books remaining popular with shoppers. Whilst 2018 remains tough we expect the pressures to ease in the second half of the year.


“We’ve already seen a tough start to 2018 and a slow down in consumer spending, but it’s important to remember the British high street still plays a vital role in society – and that there are elements of growth amongst the headline numbers of decline. Retailers need to continue looking at their businesses - including their store portfolios - to make sure they have a clear brand and product offering. Current winners are those brave enough to try something different. Nail bars, coffee shops, bookstores and niche pubs are all flourishing as they invest in creating a differentiating physical experience for their customers – something online can’t compete with.”

Lisa Hooker UK Consumer Markets Leader at PwC

Which British retailers are rising to the top?

Despite a slowdown compared to previous years, lifestyle and leisure chains (food, beverage & entertainment) have continued to see growth on the high street, with a net increase of 12 units (+0.07%) in 2017 (2016 saw +126 units and 2015 saw a net change of +271 units).

“Millennials are now mainstream and retailers are beginning to find new ways of servicing this generation. The British high street is undoubtedly changing but retailers are waking up to the challenge and reimagining the future. The winners will be those who are agile and open minded in working out the best way to ensure their stores differentiate themselves.”

Lisa Hooker UK Consumer Markets Leader at PwC

Key themes for openings and closures in 2017

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An average of 11 stores opened on the British high street every day in 2017, down from 12 per day in 2016, and 15 in 2013


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An average of 16 high street stores closed every day in 2017
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Net loss of 1,772 stores from Great Britain’s high streets in 2017
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The lifestyle-led sector is thriving, with beauty product stores, speciality coffee shops, ice cream parlours and booksellers all opening a number of new premises across the country

Contact us

Lisa Hooker

Leader of Industry for Consumer Markets, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7802 882 562

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