2020 saw more job losses on the High Street than at any point in the past 25 years, according to new research.
The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said there were 180,000 retail jobs were lost last year, up nearly 25% on 2019. But it warned of further pain in 2021, forecasting as many as 200,000 jobs.
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director at the CRR, said “the cumulative effects of months of closure and its impact upon cash flow and rent arrears that will be payable when the moratorium ends.
“Whilst the longer-term effects of the greater use by shoppers of all kinds of online retailing is likely to be hugely damaging for physical stores.”
The CRR said the Covid-19 pandemic had ‘accelerated’ the High Street’s decline, which was already in disarray. Some estimates suggest the shift towards online shopping has been brought forward by five-10 years.
Big names like Arcadia - which owns brands like Topshop, Burton, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins - Debenhams, and Edinburgh Woollen Mill all slashed thousands of jobs towards the end of the year as they fell into administration.
Susannah Streeter, market analyst at Hargreaves Landsdown, said the pandemic couldn’t be entirely blamed for the collapse of big names.
She said: “Debenhams has been the key anchor store in city centres for decades, but fell behind fashion trends, whilst locked into long leases with rising rents with underperforming online sales.
“Topshop was still the leader of the High Street fashion pack a decade ago, but underinvestment in e-commerce and social media, saw it leapfrogged by savvy online rivals like Boohoo and Asos.”