The number of stores on high streets in the West Midlands fell by 153 last year – as Birmingham looks ahead to its most important year in memory for retail .
The number of store openings in the region fell in 2014 to 371 – 100 fewer than the year before.
That meant after 524 outlets closed there was a net loss as the market continues to see a drastic overhaul amid soaring online sales and changing consumer demand.
Only Harborne, Redditch, Stratford-upon-Avon, Tamworth, Bloxwich and Stourbridge saw more stores open than close last year.
The analysis also highlights the changing profile of town centres across the West Midlands, with mobile phones shops, former bank branches, money services shops, fashion shops and estate agents all most likely to be pulling down their shutters in 2014.
Charity shops, e-cigarettes outlets, jewellers, shoe shops, financial advisors, coffee shops and discount stores were among those opening the most branches during 2014.
Rob Hunt, restructuring partner at PwC in the West Midlands, said: “This year’s numbers expose the harsh impact of ‘macro’ changes on the high street, especially in certain sub-sectors.
“Increasing regulation for money shops, the advance of technology for some phone operators and the continued shift to the internet in the clothing sector. Despite the benign economy, the net loss of shops has accelerated. The insolvencies of Phones4U, Albemarle & Bond, and La Senza, a diverse cross-section of the retail market, epitomise these factors.
“Despite the continuing problem of closures, new sub-sectors, such as discount shops and charity shops keep growing. The strength of the restaurant and fast-food sectors is also a boost for the high street.”
The net loss in the number of stores in the West Midlands has increased from 76 closures in 2013, when 471 stores opened in the region and 547 stores closed.
In Birmingham alone, there were 87 store closures last year, resulting in a net loss of 12 stores.
And while on the face of it the signs are not positive for the city’s retail scene, those changes are in line with evolving city centres.
Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, said: “Our town centres continue to evolve away from traditional shops and services to leisure – food and beverage and entertainment.
“This is reflected by American and British restaurants featuring in the top 10 risers along with the impact of click and collect services showing a 20 per cent growth in 2014.
“Change will continue and the area to watch in 2015 is the battle of the convenience and food store sector as supermarkets, the discounters and pound shops fight it out.”
Pressure on household budgets has eased in recent months thanks to lower food and petrol prices, with inflation falling to its lowest level on record, 0.3 per cent, in January.
Consumer confidence has strengthened with rising leisure trend and last year, households spent 2.7 per cent more on food, drink and tobacco than in 2013.
However, clothing and footwear retailers suffered reduced spending for the third successive month in February, down by 3.4 per cent, according to Visa Europe data.
Andy Lyon, partner and retail expert at PwC in the West Midlands, said: “The future can be seen by watching the ‘digital natives’ at work and play – those who have grown up with online shopping, mobile phones and wide-spread broadband have a very different relationship with traditional high streets than the previous generations. Rather than try to recreate the past, the high street needs to evolve to be relevant to the future.”