Feb 5, 2021
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Fashion brands and retailers plan to shut stores this year, move out of city centres

Feb 5, 2021

Nearly a third of fashion brands and a quarter of retailers are planning to shut physical stores this year, while over two thirds of shoppers don’t plan to visit the high street in 2021.

Arcadia's closures won't be the only store shutdowns this year as many other retailers are planning to exit some of their shops - Photo: Sandra Halliday

That’s according to Brightpearl, a digital operations platform for the retail and wholesale sectors. It spoke to 1,000 retail brands and 2,000 consumers to reach its conclusions.

First, the figures. Some 30% of fashion brands are expecting store closures, as are 24% of retailers, while 67% of their customers currently can’t see themselves shopping at physical stores this year. And a lot of closures seem likely in the area of sports and leisure brands.

Of course, brand and consumer intentions could change depending on the course of the pandemic, the success of the vaccine rollout and how quickly society opens up again.

Interestingly, 18% of retailers are planning to move stores out of major city centres and into local high streets within the next 12 months and 63% of consumers claim they’ll shop more locally. 

The survey also suggested a 67% drop in city centre retail footfall over the next year. So it’s no surprise that as well as the 18% of retailers planning to move out, another 40% are looking at the issue but are currently undecided on whether to follow suit. 

Brightpearl CEO Derek O’Carroll said: “Customers have relocated online of course — but they’ve also relocated to the suburbs and the rural towns and that’s reflected in our emerging shopping habits. Retailers need to respond to these changes and our data suggests many are already making plans to move stores to high street locations with increasingly strong foot traffic.”

In a bright spot, 62% of retailers expect e-commerce to fare much better than the rest of their business over the next 12 months. Some six in 10 retailers are now planning to switch their retail focus primarily online to take advantage of the huge shift to online shopping since the onset of Covid. As many as 37% of retailers plan to launch a new website or introduce new e-commerce channels this year in a bid to attract more online shoppers.

That clearly makes sense given that of the consumers surveyed, 65% are now buying online more than normal, and 81% are expecting to increase online purchasing over the next 12 months.

In fact, 45% of shoppers are now buying products online that they only previously bought in-store and 38% of them are less likely to shop in-store than they were before Covid. 

That’s good news for e-tailers, especially the big names. Some 55% of consumers said they’d use Amazon more in the year ahead, but 30% feel ‘guilty’ about abandoning physical stores for the ease of Amazon.

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