A RECORD number of shops have closed in the UK in the first half of the year – and York has been the hardest hit high street in the country.

New data shows that 11,120 chain operator outlets have closed this year so far, with 5,119 shops opening, creating a net decline of 6,001.

The research found that York has been the worst affected area of chain store losses, with a net loss of 55 outlets.

The data includes shops, hospitality chains, and services such as post offices and banks. It does not include small independent businesses – and York has more of those than most.

Phil Pinder, a spokesman for York Retail Forum, said his businesses had seen a 30 per cent drop in revenue over the weekend - as York went into Tier 2 restrictions. 

He added that it was likely that businesses in the city were in for a difficult winter.

A spokesman for Indie York, the independent business forum said: "The pandemic is presenting challenges for national chains and independent businesses alike.

"York is 65 per cent independent and the size of many of the retail units are ideally suited for small businesses.

"Over recent years footfall has gradually shifted from Coney Street, which has traditionally been the stronghold of the chains, to other parts of the city such as Petergate, Fossgate and Goodramgate.

These are all strong independent areas, many of which have their own traders' associations offering support within their local business community.

"There is a place in York for chains to sit side-by-side with the independents, both are valued by locals and visitors. During the pandemic the city's small businesses have shown that they are resilient and able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, local residents have recognised this and have been keen to support their high street small businesses. We feel that there is a shift within the city to support local businesses and we will be doing all we can to, in turn, to support them." 

However, there was some good news on the high street with leather bag retailer Zatchels securing the lease at 50 Stonegate in York.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail and strategic partnerships at the Local Data Company, said things could get worse before they get better.

“With each week that passes since retail and hospitality businesses were given the green light to reopen, the likelihood of these occupiers ever trading again in those units reduces", she said. 

“This, alongside the impact of local lockdowns and other restrictions such as the 10pm curfew will continue to have a devastating impact on the sector with more closures likely to fall in Q1 2021 following the busier golden quarter.”

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “We all knew that consumers were shifting to shopping online or changing their priorities in terms of the things they buy, but what Covid-19 has done is create a step-change in these underlying trends to where they have now become the new normal.

“While it’s challenging for many, these results do prove a few positive things. Firstly, there’s been a resurgence of interest in local high streets.

“The practicalities of lockdown and the increase in working from home mean that independent shops tend to be located where consumers increasingly are.

“Plus a steady flow of openings, with the continued roll-out of value retailers, the boom in takeaways and pizza delivery shops and demand for services that can still only be delivered locally such as tradesmen outlets, building products or locksmiths, shows that despite the stark numbers there remains a future for physical stores.

“We all still want and need to physically visit shops and leisure operators, it’s likely then that whatever happens retail will come out of this smaller but stronger.” 

Has your business closed or been drastically affected by the coronavirus? were you planning on starting a business that has now had to be put on hold? 

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