Chicken shops are proving so popular on the high street that they were one of only three store types, along with pet shops and gyms, to see more openings than closures in the last six months, according to new research.

Our insatiable appetite for online shopping also meant more clothes and fashion shops shut down than any other category, accountancy giant PwC and the Local Data Company found.

The new data uncovered that a net 1,234 chain stores closed in the first half of 2019 – the highest net closure rate since PwC and LDC started records in 2010.

A total of 2,868 stores closed over the period, with 1,634 stores opening.

Store closures in Britain Jan-Jun 2019.
(PA Graphics)

During that time, several retailers sought to close stores or reduce rents through insolvency processes known as company voluntary agreements (CVAs), including Arcadia and Debenhams.

Other retailers, such as LK Bennett, Pretty Green and Coast, went bust.

But researchers uncovered that takeaways, and chicken shops in particular, have been opening in significant numbers, with independent businessmen and women keen to fill vacant high street space.

Kien Tan, a research director at PwC, said: “Even if big chains aren’t opening, local businesses are.

“Local entrepreneurs know their local market and know where the demand is. That’s why they are willing to take that risk.”

He also pointed out that although it would appear that chains are opening, the vast majority of these are operated by franchisees.

Net change in number of high street stores in Britain
(PA Graphics)

Zelf Hussain, retail restructuring partner at PwC, added: “A number of high profile business administrations have contributed to the record net decline in high street store numbers.

“This reinforces our view that any business restructuring needs to happen alongside a wider programme of change.”

Regionally, London was hardest hit, with the biggest number of net closures, with the East Midlands, North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber the only regions to see a fall in net closures compared with the final six months of 2018.

There were some signs of growth, with the number of units opening – 1,634 – beating the 1,569 in the first half of 2018, with the LDC suggesting this is a sign of cyclical change rather than long-term decline.

Lucy Stainton, head of retail at the LDC, said: “The reality is that UK retail space will continue to look very different over the coming years, and this is demonstrated by the sheer number of stores opening and closing on an ongoing basis.”

The biggest number of closures by category were fashion retailers, pubs and bars, restaurants, estate agents and charity shops, while the largest number of openings were fashion retailers, charity shops, convenience grocery stores and takeaways.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, added: “The good news is that there are green shoots, as new entrants are entering even embattled sectors such as fashion.

“Our research tells us that consumers still want to spend their money in well located and invested stores and leisure venues on the high street.”