Scottish store closure rate remains below UK average

Three stores closed each day in Scotland in 2023, with two new stores opening, according to the latest data from PwC and The Local Data Company (LDC) – resulting in net closures of one store per day.

The bi-annual research tracks over 200,000 outlets in over 3,500 locations to gain a picture of the changing landscape of high streets, retail parks, shopping centres and stand alone outlets.

Throughout 2023, 1,069 stores north of the border closed their doors, while 732 were opened – resulting in a net loss of 337 shops and outlets belonging to multiples and chains (those with five or more outlets).

With the overall reduction at -2.1%, Scotland’s closure rate in 2023 is around one third higher than the 2022 rate of -1.4%, but remains lower than the period between 2017 and 2021 (when closures peaked at a rate of -4.1% in 2021) during a difficult period for retailers. It is also marginally lower than the Great Britain average of -2.3%.

The analysis shows that retail parks remain the most resilient outlet type, demonstrating a 0.3% increase in the number of outlets across Great Britain, while standalone stores – as well as those in shopping centres and high streets – all experienced net closers (-2.0%, -2.5% and -3.0%, respectively). 

Despite the overall decline, the hospitality sector has seen a notable rebound, leading to a surge in new store openings. PwC and LDC’s data shows that five of the top seven new opening categories were in the hospitality sector, with takeaways, food-to-go, cafés, coffee shops and restaurants flourishing in 2023.

Also among the top new opening categories were supermarkets and petrol stations, with the latter thanks to a growing demand for EV charging stations.

Ross Marshall, Partner at PwC Scotland, said: “Our research shows that, despite the continuing annual reduction of stores across Scotland, there is a willingness from business to invest in physical outlets, with two new stores opening per day for every three closed throughout 2023.

“It demonstrates the continuing evolution of our high streets, retail parks and shopping centres with a real shift towards out of town and retail park locations and a resurgence in the hospitality sector – demonstrating that ‘café culture’ is going nowhere. Across Scotland in the last few months alone, a variety of new eateries and bars have opened their doors, and entrepreneurs are making the most of the franchise model to bring big names to key Scottish locations. 

“This willingness to invest in bricks and mortar for shoppers is encouraging – especially given that PwC research shows the majority of those aged 35 and under prefer in-person experiences, and that consumers generally believe that stores beat online when it comes to customer service and after-sales service.” 

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