The UK’s high streets are in freefall, according to a survey of 900 businesses conducted on behalf of Close Brothers Asset Finance, with 85 per cent of the view that the high street is in decline.

Unusually, this view is shared across all areas measured, including region, sector and business size (turnover and employee numbers) with little variation between them.

“We’ve rarely seen this level of consensus in our research and it reflects the respondents’ personal experiences of the high street, whether as a consumer or a retailer,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “The issues facing the high street are many and multiple, with unreasonable business rates seen as the single biggest cause of the problems, followed by parking charges and – rather surprisingly in third and fourth place – online shopping and changing shopping habits.”

Q: Of these options, which is the single biggest cause of problems on the high street?

Business rate charges, including rent35%
Customers having to pay for parking24%
Online shopping21%
Changing shopping habits16%
Out of town shopping centres3%

Future of the High Street

Three in every five of those surveyed feel it’s inevitable that the UK’s High Streets will eventually disappear altogether, leading to many businesses turning to digital marketplaces to promote their goods and services. Over a quarter admit to selling more online while a further 25 per cent are actively seeking alternative sales channels to shore up their existing business model.

“The UK’s SMEs are known for their innovation and ability to problem solve but these results are understandably concerning,” said Neil. “Many of those surveyed are directly affected, whether as retailers or suppliers, and they’re clearly stating that unless something is done to address their concerns, like business rates and parking, the decline will continue.”


Not enough is being done by the government and local councils to encourage the health of the high street, according to 70% of those surveyed. Businesses in the South East and Wales feel particularly in need of some sort of assistance, along with those that employ between one and 10 staff.

“Our research shows that the picture of decline is pretty uniform in all regions,” said Neil. “Despite a few success stories, the overall message is that confidence in the High Street is low.”

Q: Is enough being done by the government and local councils to encourage the health of the high street?

UK combined30%70%
South East England17%83%
South West England22%78%
East Anglia26%74%
East Midlands30%70%
West Midlands31%69%
North West England38%63%
Greater London38%62%
North East England46%54%
Northern Ireland52%48%