As many as 17,000 new stores predicted to open on Britain's high streets

As many as 17,000 new stores could be set to open on Britain’s high streets in the next 12 months as the retail industry looks to capitalise on new hybrid working models.

Research published today found that consumers have returned to physical stores with confidence since restrictions began to ease, with 68 per cent saying they have felt safe, or very safe, to return to the high street.

While there has been a boom in online shopping during the pandemic, 40 per cent of shoppers said they plan to increase their in-store spending, a survey by the Barclays Corporate Banking found.

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The bank also found that home and hybrid working patterns are likely to help local high streets over town and city centres.

Barclays believes 17,000 new stores could open on our high streets.

Its research showed that this pattern will persist well into 2022, with nearly a quarter of workers in Yorkshire, with 23 per cent expecting to work entirely from home and 17 per cent anticipating a part-home, part-office model.

The figure for exclusive home working in Yorkshire is well ahead of the national average of 16 per cent.

Just over a quarter of consumers across Yorkshire now say that the best way a retailer can appeal to them is to open stores in their local area.

Karen Johnson, head of retail and wholesale for Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “Our report shows how innovative UK retail businesses are looking to build back better to meet the challenges of a reshaped and revitalised retail landscape.

Hebden Bridge is home to many independent stores.

“Ecommerce has been the undisputed winner of the pandemic but not far behind are community high streets, as shoppers seek to ‘look local’ and support the stores on their doorstep.

“With the continuation of home working, this shows no sign of slowing down, and retailers are now looking at evaluating their store estates to meet local demand.”

The data also found that since reopening, more than half of retailers have seen an increase in what customers spend, with average purchases up 9 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Health and lifestyle products have proved particularly popular, especially among younger shoppers, and 38 per cent of retailers also reported an increase in demand for sustainable products.

It also showed that three in 10 retailers are looking to entice more people back to physical stores by laying on experiences such as concerts and exhibitions.

Barclays also found that some 40 per cent of retailers now employ data-led marketing to acquire more customers.

In overall terms, retailers are overwhelmingly optimistic about future growth, with 80 per cent of those asked confident of growth over the next 12 months.

Of this number, 41 per cent of retailers described themselves as being very confident.