High streets are undergoing a “drastic” overhaul with charity and coffee shops on the rise at the expense of mobile phone outlets and money services.
New research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reveals the changing face of the country’s town centres, with former bank branches, fashion shops and estate agents also suffering a downturn.
The research, compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), found that 312 outlets closed in Scotland in 2014 – a rate of six per week – compared to 246 openings.
Perth was the only city in 2014 where more more stores opened than closed, while in Falkirk only three multiple retailers shut compared with 16 the previous year.
Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow recorded the biggest net loss of shops.
Nationally, the net loss of 66 shops is more than double that recorded in 2013.
Charity shops, coffee outlets, tobacconists and e-cigarette vendors were the businesses most likely to open, while mobile phone shops, building societies and cheque cashing stores were the biggest losers.
Bruce Cartwright, head of business recovery services at PwC in Scotland, said: “The Scottish high street continues its drastic overhaul in response to the advance of online sales and changing consumer demand.
“Regulation has blindsided the money shops, the advance of technology has hammered some phone operators and the internet continues to dent the clothing sector.
“Despite the Scottish economy reflecting healthy, sustainable growth during 2014 and into 2105, the net loss of shops has accelerated. The insolvencies of Phones4U, Blockbuster, Albemarle & Bond, and La Senza, a diverse cross-section of the retail market, epitomise these factors.
“Despite the continuing problem of closures, new sub-sectors such as discount shops and charity shops keep growing. The strength of the restaurant and fast-food sectors is also a boost for the high street.”
Martin Cowie, head of private business at PwC in Scotland, said: “Our high streets are continuing to transform as consumers increasingly adopt the newer digital channels, mobile technologies and smartphone apps available to them: traditional retail channels to market are being wiped out and new channels created in this evolving online world.
“Indeed, over the last year we’ve been increasingly seeing online revenues far outstrip store sales growth for most retailers, from a much higher base.
“These trends have been with us for some time and the likelihood is that this rate of closures will continue, particularly as we’ll increasingly see younger ‘digital natives’ develop very different relationships with traditional high streets than previous generations.”
Matthew Hopkinson, director of LDC, said: “Our town centres continue to evolve away from traditional shops and services to leisure – food and beverage and entertainment.
“This is reflected by American and British restaurants featuring in the top 10 risers along with the impact of click and collect services showing a 20% growth in 2014.
“Change will continue and the area to watch in 2015 is the battle of the convenience and food store sector as supermarkets, the discounters and pound shops fight it out.”