Britain’s disappearing high street: 83% of department stores have closed since 2016

Britain’s disappearing high street: 83% of department stores have closed since the BHS collapse in 2016, leaving only 79 open, compared to 467 five years ago

  • Only 79 of the main stores are still open, compared to 467 five years ago, data shows
  • Commercial real estate information company CoStar Group has done the latest investigation
  • It found that two-thirds of its buildings are vacant – with 237 yet to be taken over


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Britain’s High Street has lost 83 percent of its department stores since the BHS collapse in 2016.

Only 79 of the main stores remain open, compared to 467 five years ago, new data shows.

CoStar Group, a commercial real estate information agency, found that more than two-thirds of its buildings are vacant, with 237 yet to be taken over by a new company.

The company has been tracking the country’s top brands – including BHS and Debenhams – since 2016.

The study, conducted in July, found that since then the number of stores they occupy on the high street has shrunk from 467 to 79.

It means 388 have closed, with 237 left empty and 52 with plans to turn it into another business.

Britain's High Street has lost 83 percent of department stores since BHS's collapse in 2016 (file photo)

Britain’s High Street has lost 83 percent of department stores since BHS’s collapse in 2016 (file photo)

CoStar has been tracking the country's top brands - including BHS and Debenhams (file photo) - since 2016

CoStar has been tracking the country's top brands - including BHS and Debenhams (file photo) - since 2016

CoStar has been tracking the country’s top brands – including BHS and Debenhams (file photo) – since 2016

The company’s head of analytics, Mark Stansfield, told the… BBC: ‘The data undoubtedly points to the acceleration of changes in retail in recent years, which has only exacerbated the pandemic.’

He continued: ‘We are increasingly seeing forward-thinking property owners stepping up to the challenge and reshaping key assets in our city centers to form a focal point for regeneration.

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

CoStar Group said BHS is a good example of the problems for high street businesses.

The clothing chain collapsed five years ago, but since then a quarter of the former stores have been empty.

CoStar Group said BHS was a prime example of the problems for high street businesses (file photo)

CoStar Group said BHS was a prime example of the problems for high street businesses (file photo)

CoStar Group said BHS was a prime example of the problems for high street businesses (file photo)

Part of the Edinburgh store has been transformed from an asbestos-containing location into a Premier Inn.

On the top of the six floors, offices are being finished and the basement is expected to be converted into a bowling alley.

The Scottish capital is being hit hard, among other things, by the disappearance of shops from the main street.

It has seen four of its major department stores go down in recent years, but plans are underway to replace several.

Princes Street’s former House of Fraser is being transformed into the Johnnie Walker Whiskey Experience.

Unlikely Edinburgh, smaller areas north of the border struggle to replace high street shops.

BHS collapsed five years ago, but a quarter of its former stores have been empty since then (file photo)

BHS collapsed five years ago, but a quarter of its former stores have been empty since then (file photo)

BHS collapsed five years ago, but a quarter of its former stores have been empty since then (file photo)

In the Scottish border town of Dumfries, the old Debenhams store still stands empty, despite being the largest retail unit.

The locals try to buy it and turn it into a cinema or food court, but struggle to get the money together.

Debenhams, which collapsed in May, is one of the worst cases of high streets remaining empty in recent years.

As many as 149 of his addresses remain vacant, according to data from CoStar Group.

Researchers reviewed planning applications and spoke with real estate agents and landlords for the report.

In a glimmer of hope for the high street, they found that Next has taken over some Debenhams stores for its new beauty concept.

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