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The Body Shop More bad news for the High Street

Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2024

There has been more bad news for the future of the High Street after the Body Shop chain fell into administration with an announcement of 82 stores closing over the coming weeks.


Locally, though, both the Wimbledon and Kingston upon Thames stores will remain open.


With stores across the world – its Denmark and Belgium branches have also declared bankruptcy and its Irish counterpart is expected to follow suit, 270 jobs are expected to be lost at its UK head office alongside 489 people employed in its shops.


Originally opened in Brighton with just one shop by the late Dame Anita Roddick in 1976, The Body Shop fast became a High Street stalwart but has struggled in recent years. Dame Anita sold the chain to L’Oreal in 2006 which in turn offloaded the chain to Natura in 2017 and it changed hands again last year when it was taken over by private equity firm Aurelius.


The Body Shop isn’t the only bad news for retail with Sainsbury’s announcing 1,500 job losses as part of its bid to save £1 billion.


Earlier this year, trade publication The Retail Gazette listed its prediction of retail winners and losers for 2024. Its winners list includes Marks and Spencer, Currys, Uniqlo and WH Smith. Its losers were predicted to be Superdry due to declining sales pre covid and warmer weather meaning consumers shun outerwear; Wayfair which has struggled with profitability in the home furnishings market where consumers make largely one off purchases; and Boots which was a winner last year due to renewed interest in health following covid but it may not be enough to keep the momentum going this year particularly as ‘the long-term structural issue of investment in the store estate may be exposed’.


According to the British Retail Consortium, Britain has lost 6,000 storefronts in just five years. In Q2 last year, the nationwide vacancy rate increased to 13.9%, a 0.1 percentage point worse than Q1 but was a 0.1 percentage point better than the same period last year. Least affected areas were Greater London, Southeast and East of England whilst the highest vacancy rates were in the Northeast, followed by Wales and Scotland. Tourists flocking again to the capital, workers returning to the office and the opening of flagship stores have ensured London has the lowest vacancy rates.


The BRC blamed ‘crippling business rates’ and the effect of lockdowns throughout the pandemic as the key reasons for rising retail vacancies. To ease the crisis of empty stores on the country’s High Streets, the BRC wants to see business rates frozen.


Retailers continue to face challenges such as energy costs and the cautious consumers reluctant to spend during a cost-of-living crisis whilst retail crime continues to be a major issue and the rise in the National Minimum Wage will also have an impact. From 1 April, employees aged 21 and over will be entitled to the National Living Wage, which previously did not take effect until the age of 23, of £11.44 per hour, up from £10.42. For 16-17-year-olds, the National Minimum Wage rises from £5.28 to £6.40 an hour and for 18-20-year-olds, it increases to £8.60 per hour from £7.49.


With all these headwinds, we are likely to see further changes on our High Streets but traditionally, independent storekeepers have proved agile, creative and resilient and with interest rates reducing, experts are cautiously optimistic for retailers this year.


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