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Arts & Culture

Mixed picture for North East high streets

A new report has found that high streets across the North East are struggling in the current bleak climate for retail, but there are still some that continue to grow.

The research, which was carried out by PwC, analysed the number of stores opening and closing on high streets across the UK in the first half of 2019, finding that 1,234 stores shut down — a rate of 16 shops closing each day.

In the North East, there were just 53 new shops opening, outnumbered by 93 closing their doors, meaning that there was a net loss of 38 premises between January and June.

The high streets with the biggest losses in the region were located in South Shields, Stockton, North Shields, Chester-le-Street, Morpeth, and Blyth.

On a positive note, there were three North East high streets that are continuing to thrive in spite of the challenging climate: Gosforth, Darlington, and Newcastle, who each posted net gains for stores opening up for business.

More upbeat findings have revealed that the closing of the region’s stores is slowing, with a net loss of 38 stores lower compared to the same period in 2018, when 72 shut their doors.

PwC’s report also revealed that certain types of shop were suffering more than others in the region, with pubs, bookmakers, fashion, and men’s clothing retailers experiencing the highest net fall in the number of outlets.

Jonathan Greenaway, PwC’s Newcastle office senior partner, said: “The positive for the region is that year on year the net fall in stores has slowed, however quite simply openings across the region aren’t replacing closures at a fast enough rate with some of our towns experiencing no new openings. That said, the North East has fared better than most.

“The reality for many of us is that we now prefer to shop online and increasingly eat, drink and entertain at home. As a result, the high street is having to adapt to an overcapacity in retail and leisure space resulting from these channel shifts.

“The key for retailers and leisure operators is to continue looking at their businesses, ensuring they have a strong brand, product offering and essentially a clear proposition. It’s also equally important to consider having an integrated store and online presence.”