Andy Lyon

Andy Lyon, partner and head of retail at PwC in the Midlands

Bright outlook for West Midlands retail

Store openings in the West Midlands reach the highest level since 2014, say PwC and The Local Data Company.

The number of retail outlets opening in the West Midlands is at its highest level for three years, according to research by PwC and the Local Data Company (LDC).

The analysis tracked 5,147 outlets in the West Midlands operated by multiple retailers in 32 town centres across the region. In the first six months of 2017, 191 shops opened on high streets, retail parks and shopping centres - alongside 224 closures.

The data shows, the net difference between store openings and closures in H1 2017 has increased significantly to a net loss of -33 stores compared to a net loss of -44 in H1 2016, representing the lowest net decline since H1 2013 when -40 more stores closed than opened.

Birmingham faired well with a net gain of +6 stores, with 35 closures and 41 openings. However, Tamworth saw the biggest net decline of -7.

Stratford Upon Avon and Cannock experienced a net loss of -5 closures, with Shrewsbury seeing a net growth of five openings. Stoke on Trent had a net loss of -4 stores with six new store openings and 10 closures over the period.

The analysis also finds that online growth may be a factor in an already leaner, fitter high street evolving further. With a higher online sales presence in the UK as a percentage of total retail sales than the United States or any country in Europe. Desktop PCs are still the most popular device for placing online shopping orders, but mobile devices, especially smartphones, are catching up.

Andy Lyon, partner and head of retail at PwC in the Midlands said: “It’s encouraging to see the high street holding up - and even rallying in some cases. The twin canons of increased online purchases and a tough economy have seen many retailers take a long, hard look at their store portfolios. There will always be a physical presence on the high street, but developments in technology are accelerating and impacting future staffing and operating models.

“Ways of shopping are continuously transforming and include subscription models, the connected home, and companies using data analytics to suggest your next purchase. Major questions are beginning to be asked about who will ultimately ‘own’ the consumer.  

“The UK is one of the world leaders for consumer online purchases. Retailers must continue to evolve if they are to make the most of both new digital opportunities and the country’s high streets.”

The opening and closure data is at the highest it has been since 463 shops opened or closed in H1 2014, compared to the 415 shops from in H1 2017.

Amongst those growing at the fastest rate during the first half of 2017, were satellite/ TV retailers (7), fashion retailers (11) and coffee shops (6).

However, across multiple retailers in the West Midlands, charity (-7) and shoe shops (-5) and newsagents (-5) were among the hardest hit in the first half of 2017.