There were negatives. Our Store Openings and Closures report showed a record number of net store closures (-1,234) and a total of 2,868 store closures: the most for five years; CVAs continued to be used by retailers to reduce store estates and rent levels; and there were several high-profile administrations, some of which have yet to fully play out, with more stores due to close in the first half of 2020. But there were pockets of growth in net store openings in gyms, food to go and pets and a return of independents.
But there were positives, too. Consumers are feeling more confident; our most recent survey shows an increase in consumer sentiment to its highest level in five years, and significantly higher than after the last recession. We’re seeing high employment levels, wages rising faster than inflation (partly driven by National Living Wages increases) and low interest rates, all giving consumers more spending power. While high street footfall is decreasing, the rate of decrease has stabilised at around – 2% and the capture rate (the proportion of visitors actually going into stores) has started to improve. Also, whilst footfall was down in December, a quarter of high streets, a third of shopping centres and half of out of town centres saw growth. And pub and restaurant sales and restaurant food delivery all continued to grow over the festive period.