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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The ailing British High Street

The collapse of Thomas Cook is going to have a huge impact on our high streets, with the closure of hundreds of their outlets adding to the shrinking offer available to shoppers.

On-line banking, out-of-town shopping malls and repressed consumer spending has already badly hit shopping centres, with an increase in empty shop units and a growth in pop-ups and charity shops. These in turn hit other retail outlets due to reduced footfall. It is a downward spiral with few solutions on offer.

Adding to this malaise is the systematic closure of bank branches, as more people rely on on-line banking and cashless purchases rather than the personal interaction available with expert staff over a bank counter.

As the Guardian says, more than a third of the UK’s bank branches have shut for good in less than five years, while hundreds of those that remain have reduced their opening hours. They quote a report by the consumer group Which? that found there were 3,303 closures to the bank branch network between January 2015 and last month, as banks continue to shut branches at an “alarming rate”.

Overall, the UK branch network has reduced from 9,803 to 6,549 in four and a half years, with the closures being offset by 49 branches opened by the challenger banks. Of the UK’s bank branches that remain open, 298 are operating with reduced opening hours of four days a week or fewer.

As Age UK say. the rate at which banks are closing local branches is a huge blow for the millions of older people who rely on them, particularly those who are not online or confident with mobile banking. It is also a further blow to a great British institution - high street shopping.
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