14th November 2019

The high street is looking peaky – but it’s not dead yet

  • The high street lost 1,234 stores in the first half of this year – the fastest rate since PwC and the Local Data Company started reporting it in 2010.
  • The number of people visiting stores is down 10% in the past seven years.
  • But still just over 80p of every pound is spent in store.

The ONS has published an article looking at how our internet activity has influenced the way we shop. The report is available here:


Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

“We’ve been gathered round the high street’s death bed for a good few years now, but while it’s not looking in the rudest of health, there’s life in the old dog yet.

There’s no denying the high street is looking peaky. Visits have dropped 10% in seven years, and we’ve lost so many household names that we’re starting to greet the demise of much-loved brands like Mothercare with a sad sense of resignation rather than the shock and dismay we felt back in 2009 when Woolworths closed its doors.

Some retailers are under particular pressure, as the trend towards online shopping has focused on areas like clothing, household goods and department store shopping.

However, retailers are putting up a fight. Many are working hard to provide the kind of customer services that make visiting the shops more of a treat and less of a chore. Meanwhile, the high street mix now includes everything from virtual reality gaming to escape rooms, giving people new ways to enjoy themselves while parting with their cash.

Food shopping has been the most resilient in the face of the rise of the internet. It still accounts for almost 39p of every pound spent, and only 5.5% of it is done online. Retailers have worked to encourage people to translate their food shop into a wider shopping experience – whether that’s out of town developments integrating supermarkets and stores like M&S, or bringing retail outlets into larger supermarkets (like Argos in Sainsbury’s branches). In future, we might even see a time when a food store becomes the anchor for shopping centres and malls in the same way that department stores are now.

The pressure is unlikely to ease on retailers, and we will see more stores and brands succumb to this pressure over time. But we’re still spending the vast majority of our cash in store, and while retailers can still dream up new ways to get us through the doors, there’ll be no need for that final nail in the coffin for the high street.”

Other findings in the report

The proportion of online spending increasing threefold between 2008 (4.9%) and 2018 (17.9%).

But that still means more than 80p in every £1 is spent in store.

82% of internet users shopped online in the last 12 months - up from 53% in 2008.

The most common reasons for not buying online was that people prefer to shop in person, like to see the product, have loyalty to shops and do so out of habit.

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