UK loses 83% of department stores since BHS collapsed

UK loses 83% of department stores since BHS collapsed

The UK has lost 83% of its main department stores in the five years since the collapse of the BHS chain. The figure highlights the extent of the upheaval in the High Street as the Covid pandemic sped up changes in shopping habits.

The data, compiled by commercial property information firm CoStar Group, also reveals that more than two-thirds of these shops remain unoccupied. Some 237 big stores have yet to be taken over by a new business.

“The data undoubtedly highlights the acceleration of change in the retail sector in recent years, which the pandemic has only exacerbated,” said CoStar Group’s head of analytics, Mark Stansfield.

CoStar tracked the UK’s largest chains, from BHS and Beales to Debenhams and House of Fraser, from 2016 to the present day.

Five years ago, they had 467 stores between them. Now, however, only 79 are left.

CoStar Group also examined what had happened to the 388 that had closed.

Although 237 are currently sitting empty, 52 already have either firm plans in place or early planning approval for a change of use or repurposing. The research was done in July.

Mr Stansfield believes the pace of change would soon step up. “We are increasingly seeing forward-thinking real estate owners getting ahead of the problem and reshaping what are key assets in our town centres to provide a focal point for regeneration,” he said.

“I think we’ll see many more plans come to light in the coming months. With these store closures come new opportunities.”

No quick fix

Department stores have long been the cornerstone of UK shopping areas. Many are in purpose-built shopping centres, while some occupy historic buildings. Figuring out what to do with all this redundant space is one of the biggest challenges for landlords, as well as for the town centres that host those properties.

BHS is a good illustration of why there is no quick fix for the problem. Five years after the retailer ceased trading, a quarter of its former outlets have still failed to attract new tenants.

Source: BBCB