Sector Focus 

The end of the high street?

The end of the high street?

The approach of the end of January means that the bulk of British retailers have reported Christmas sales figures. And there’s a clear theme: the future of the UK high street is under threat. This might not sound like news, its demise has been predicted since the 1980s, but recent trading patterns show traditional retail assailed on several fronts, above and beyond the threat posed by the growing popularity of online shopping. With price inflation at record highs in certain sub-sectors, and flat real wage growth across the country, discretionary incomes (and consumer spending) are under enormous pressure. Customers are tightening their belts, and delaying purchases. Even Marks and Spencer’s (MKS) food department – a hitherto safe haven – had to slash prices to convince customers to spring for festive treats in time for the big day. What’s more, recent data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that year-on-year December footfall numbers decreased sharply by 3.5 per cent – the biggest decline since March 2013, when it dropped by 5.2 per cent.

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