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Birmingham weathering high street storm

City is faring well as retail sector continues to battle flight to online shopping according to new research

Graham Young The Electric Cinema (centre) is now next to Grand Central
The opening of Grand Cenrtal in 2015 continues to be a draw for shoppers

Birmingham's high street appears to be weathering the retail storm as new research says the city had a net loss of just one shop last year.

The annual report into the state of the nation's retail sector suggests the opening of Grand Central in September 2015 cemented Birmingham's place as a destination of choice for shoppers and kept them coming back last year.

According to the research, 45 shops closed in Birmingham during 2016 while 44 opened, meaning the city finished 2016 with 752 outlets.

Among the departures was Steel and Jelly and Jeff Bains, both at Grand Central, and the large BHS in New Street, one of several of the chain's stores to close across the West Midlands after it fell into administration last April.

New openings in Birmingham included Ikea in the city centre, Primark at The Fort in Castle Bromwich and Paul Smith in the Mailbox.

The report, compiled by the Local Data Company and financial services firm PwC, also said that Wolverhampton, Nuneaton and Shrewsbury were the hardest hit areas in the West Midlands.

While Bromsgrove, Hereford and Worcester all enjoyed a net gain in the number of stores operating.

Jewellers, coffee shops and chocolatiers continued to thrive in the West Midlands while fashion shops and department stores continue to be hit by the changing habits of consumers and the increased use of online shopping.

In 2016, the West Midlands suffered a net reduction in the number of shops of 60, up from a reduction of 19 in 2015.

The East of England was the only region in England, Wales and Scotland to see a net increase the number of shops in 2016 at two.

Andy Lyon, partner and head of retail at PwC in the Midlands, said: "The research clearly highlights the changing face of town centres - leisure and experience destinations continue to replace traditional high street stalwarts.

"As the West Midlands becomes a go-to destination, we are seeing an appetite for coffee shops and tourist information, filling the void left by clothing shops, department stores and banks.

"Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever, leading to closures on the high street.

"2017 will be a crucial year for retailers - a combination of price inflation on goods and groceries will mean that brand loyalty will play a more significant role than ever.

"With prices on the up and less disposable income available to consumers, retailers will need to be versatile and savvy to increase footfall to their stores."

Selected West Midlands Data

Area Businesses Jan 2016 Businesses Dec 2016 Openings Closures Net Change
West Midlands 5,176 5,116 332 392 -60
Birmingham 753 752 44 45 -1
Bromsgrove 81 85 8 4 +4
Coventry 257 251 13 19 -6
Dudley 108 104 9 13 -4
Lichfield 122 123 8 7 +1
Nuneaton 168 157 5 16 -11
Shirley 69 68 4 5 -1
Shrewsbury 205 198 10 17 -7
Solihull 242 238 19 23 -4
Stratford 159 154 10 15 -5
Sutton Coldfield 138 134 4 8 -4
Walsall 167 161 16 22 -6
Wolverhampton 244 226 20 38 -18
Worcester 252 256 14 10 +4
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