'˜Nearly 45 per cent of Yorkshire stores at risk of going under'

The number of shops at risk of insolvency in Yorkshire is at a higher than normal rate after a torrid few months for the High Street.

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Data released today shows that the level of stores at risk of going under has risen from 30.2 per cent to 44.3 per cent in the last nine months, a figure which adds up to some 4,410 shops.

The figures for the region are slightly worse than the national picture which shows 42 per cent of high street retailers with an elevated insolvency risk, up from 29.3 per cent in November 2017.

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Across the UK, 58,031 of the 138,094 active retail businesses were deemed to be at elevated risk

In the region, the breakdown of different types of shops reveals that home furnishings stores face the toughest challenges with 47 per cent in the elevated risk bracket, followed by shoe shops and clothes stores.

The latest research from insolvency and restructuring trade body R3 also shows that, of the 12 regions surveyed, London put in the strongest performance with 38 per cent of shops at above normal risk, followed by Northern Ireland with 38.9 per cent. In contrast, the South West had the highest proportion of physical retailers at risk with 48.6 per cent, while Wales had 45.4 per cent.

However, the latest ONS report for August shows a slightly more optimistic picture with a 0.3 per cent increase in sales since the previous month and strong growth at both non-food and household goods shops although clothing sales fell by 1.9 per cent month on month.

Eleanor Temple, chair of R3 in Yorkshire and a barrister at Kings Chambers in Leeds, said: “With September seeing a six-month high in inflation, consumer spending is likely to slow further as real earnings remain under pressure.

“This, together with the subdued housing market and the uncertain political picture as we enter the final six months before Brexit, may well result in many households being more cautious in their spending.

“With the high street suffering from rising rents and wage costs as well as fierce competition from the internet, physical retailers have some tough challenges ahead. Whatever type of business you have, if you are experiencing signs of financial distress, do seek advice from a qualified professional as soon as possible when the most tools are available to help you.”

The pressure on physical retail has been unrelenting in recent years.

This year alone has seen the demise of Toys R’ Us, Maplin and Select while once mighty brands like House of Fraser are in a battle for survival.

Meanwhile the likes of Marks & Spencer, New Look, Carpetright and Homebase have all announced vast store closures as they struggle to maintain their vast operational footprints in face of continuing competition from the world of online retail.

Recent ONS data claimed that by 2024 a quarter of all retailing could be done online, with this hitting 50 per cent by 2044.

While it looks set to take some time longer, this could increase to three-quarters of all retailing by 2063, with the bricks and mortar retail outlet becoming instinct by 2082 as 100 per cent of retailing moves online.