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128,000 high street jobs in danger as string of retail shops set to shut down | City & Business | Finance


The outlook comes because the retail industry braces itself for a troublesome Christmas trading period as shoppers feel the pinch amid the continuing cost-of-living crisis and record levels of inflation.

“People have said to themselves, ‘we have run out of cash’,” said Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research.

Scores of major retailers went out of business in 2022, including Sofa Workshop and household retailer Made.com. Fashion chain Joules went into administration earlier this yr, before the business was bought by Next.

Now a series of retail analysts have predicted one other tough 12 months for the delicate sector, including a repeat of the 15,000 store closures and 128,000 job losses witnessed this yr.

Professor Bamfield said: “I just see a continuation of the method we saw in 2022 where we now have fewer and fewer retail stores selling merchandise, and more hairdressers and wellness clinics and tattoo parlours and so forth. I expect the figures for 2023 will look much similar to they do for this yr.

“We’ll know by May or June obviously but the very fact we now have had so many corporations go bust within the last 4 weeks is probably an indication of the times. People have said to themselves, ‘We have run out of cash’.”

On the difficulty of job losses, Prof Bamfield, added: “Many retailers are desperate for workers.

“But when you have got a store with nine or ten employees but customer footfall is down in comparison with 2019 by ten or 15 percent, they could say, ‘Let’s examine how we get on with six members of staff’. That process is carrying on.”

The retail guru said he was forecasting a fall in retail sales of three percent in 2023.

Prof Bamfield also estimated the mixture of high energy costs, wages and business rates meant that for many shops there was no likelihood of constructing a profit at any time through the next 12 months.

Similarly, retail expert Richard Hyman predicted a grim future for the high street as figures for non-food retail sales within the three months to the top of October slumped by 1.2 percent. He explained: “Not enough shops have closed lately. Retail continues to be over supplied.

“Now we now have a big recession on our hands, but an excessive amount of of the narrative focuses on the technical definition of a recession.

“Most consumers don’t care about that. They learn about their income they usually know that’s now lagging behind what it costs to do the things they’ve been doing, so they’ll must make economies. It’s an issue of how they prioritise and the way they make those economies.

“A variety of the non-foods we buy is because we wish them, slightly than because we’d like them.

“That is where the budgeting goes to occur. It will be a difficult couple of years while the UK economy gets smaller with a view to get greater again, and switch to growth at some stage.”

Susannah Streeter, markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The high street has shown some deep pockets of resilience, particularly amongst retailers offering value, but as cost-of-living headwinds proceed to whip up and a recession looms, 2023 goes to be a really difficult yr.

“Retail sales are still below pre-pandemic times, and with more cash being taken out of the economy through tax increases and better energy bills, consumers are more likely to proceed to rein in expenditure.”

Other commentators took a more positive tone suggesting that if the high street were in a position to adapt to changing consumer habits it could still enjoy a vibrant future, despite the challenges ahead.

Malcolm Pinkerton, senior director of Strategic Insights at Kantar, said: “We are able to expect to see the high street proceed to adapt itself towards growing areas resembling takeaways, personal services resembling salons and hairdressers, and entertainment spaces, to drive more consumers to the high street.

Nick Carroll, Mintel’s category director of retail insights, added: “The longer term of the high street have to be one built on providing a ‘multimission experience’ – with shopping destinations allowing shoppers to finish multiple goals without delay.”

And Martyn James, independent consumer champion, said 2023 may very well be a “a turning point” for the struggling retail sector.

He said: “I can see former malls becoming huge, shared retailer franchises, where consumers order goods to the shop, and check out them on with friends while having fun with a glass of wine or a spot of lunch.”

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