The ever-changing face of Britain’s High Street: One in seven stores are now empty after more than 14,000 retail outlets closed last year, with map showing North East of the UK the worst hit – as retail giants like Zara and Primark buck trend

High Streets that were once the pride of British communities are being gutted worrying new figures show, with shops sitting empty and the North East the worst hit by vacancies – while retail giants like Zara and Primark are bucking the trend.

Last week it was revealed that nearly 100 stores in one Suffolk seaside resort pulled down their shutters for good due to the growth of online shopping, with despairing locals describing the area as a ‘zombie town’.

By the end of 2023, 17.7 per cent of shopping centre units, 14 per cent of High Street shops and 7.6 per cent of retail park space sat empty, according to statistics from the Local Data Company.

Meanwhile, across all shopping destinations, a whopping 55,514 shops, pubs, restaurants and other service businesses closed last year –  the highest figure in more than 10 years and 6,820 more than in 2022.

On High Streets alone,  14,081 franchise retail outlets closed.

Stores such as Muji, whose European branch looks set to go into administration, and Ted Baker, who have also called in administrators to rescue 86 stores across the UK, are recent examples of the demise of the High Street – following the likes of Wilko and Paperchase.

Chains which saw the biggest fall in the number of outlets due to financial problems or restructures last year were fashion chains M&Co and Joules, stationers Paperchase, general store Wilko and pub group Stonegate which runs Slug & lettuce.

But, in contrast, multinational mass production retailers like Zara, Primark and H&M all reported sale increases last year – and are winning out as a dominant force in the changing landscape of Britain’s ailing shopping districts.

There was also a rise in new stores opened by thriving UK chains including Greggs, Domino’s and Costa last year, even if this has not been outweighed by the numbers of closures.

The firms which saw the most new locations open included discount retailer Aldi, coffee chains Costa and Starbucks – both of which built a lot of drive-throughs – and fast food chains Greggs and Domino’s.

When it was revealed that a net total of 4,415 retail businesses and 555 accommodation and food firms disappeared in the first three months of 2023, business minister Kevin Hollinrake was insistent that the British High Street was not ‘dead’ but ‘reshaping itself’ after the collapse of Wilko, which closed 400 stores.

Read More: The ever-changing face of Britain’s High Street: One in seven stores are now empty after more than 14,000 retail outlets closed last year,

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