Latest quarter shows slight improvement for Yorkshire’s beleaguered retail sector

Bricks-and-mortar shops in Yorkshire have seen a slight uplift in their fortunes quarter-on-quarter, according to research from insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.

According to R3, 2019 has been an incredibly tough year in retail (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Its latest study showed that in the three months to December 2019, there was a fall in the level of high street shops at higher than normal risk of insolvency in the region.

In Yorkshire, there has been a gradually improving picture in the retail sector, with the percentage of deemed to be at heightened risk of insolvency in the next 12 months decreasing from 44.1 per cent June 2019 to 42.5 per cent in September, and again falling to 41.8 per cent in December.

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However, levels of high street retail businesses at elevated risk in the region remain higher than the UK-wide levels which fell from 41.6 per cent in June, to 40.6 per cent in September, and 40.1 per cent in the most recent figures.

There are more than 10,400 active shops in Yorkshire of which nearly 4,400 are considered to be at higher than normal risk of insolvency.

Across the UK, over 59,000 of 149,000 physical stores are in this elevated risk category.

Once again, of the types of shops monitored by R3, Yorkshire’s home furnishings stores had the highest proportion of companies at higher than usual risk (41.6 per cent); followed by shoe shops (40.1 per cent); clothing stores (38.2 per cent); motor retailers (37.3 per cent); market stalls 36.4 per cent); and book shops (35.4 per cent).

Looking at the retail sector across the UK, the top three performers were once again London (36.4 per cent of bricks-and-mortar shop companies at higher than normal risk), the East of England (38.5 per cent), and the North West (38.7 per cent). However, the South East (44.3 per cent), the South West (43.5 per cent), and Wales (42.6 per cent) fared worst with the highest levels of high street shops at higher than normal risk.

Eleanor Temple, chair of R3 in Yorkshire and a barrister at Kings Chambers in Leeds, said: “2019 has been an incredibly tough year in retail, with the sector reeling from continued intense competition from internet shopping, together with the rising cost of being on the high street and falling consumer spending in the face of economic uncertainty.

“However, looking on the positive side, levels of distress do appear to be moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. What’s more, Yorkshire and the Humber are following this UK-wide trend, and it is to be hoped that the region’s retailers will be able to take advantage of a calmer political and economic landscape next year. Any shop owners who are concerned about their financial situation would be well advised to seek professional advice at the first signs of trouble.”