Hundreds of shops are being converted into restaurants and takeaways as disruption from online retailers and food delivery apps rapidly changes the look of UK high streets, new figures suggest.
Data from more than 100 councils across the country shows that almost two thirds of change-of-use applications in 2018/19 sought to convert a shop to another category such as restaurant, takeaway or office. Just 18 per cent of applications sought to make the opposite switch – converting another type of building into a shop.
Restaurants and takeaways have witnessed a very different trend: There were more than three times as many applications to convert a building into a restaurant than to convert one from a restaurant to a different use. Hot food takeaways also showed signs of growth.
Despite the difficulties suffered by many high-profile restaurant chains in recent months, demand remains high for these premises, said Direct Line which compiled the figures.
While business owners may see opportunities for turning retail premises into restaurants there is no don’t that the outlook remains difficult and the overall number of businesses on British high streets is in decline.
There are 404,000 businesses across 7,000 high streets this year, down from 412,000 in 2014. The number of retail premises has declined in every region outside London and the North West.
While shops have borne the brunt of these changes, restaurants have been far from immune.
Separate research from industry analysts CGA shows that Britain had 768 fewer restaurants in March this year than it did a year before – a fall of 2.8 per cent, or equivalent to 15 closures every week.
Many of these have been from casual dining chains such as Byron, Jamie’s Italian, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Carluccio’s which overextended during a boom period for the sector but have since been hit by rising wages and costs along with heightened competition.
The rise of delivery apps has also come alongside a move towards consumers increasingly eating at home rather than dining out.
Jemma Holloway, product manager at Direct Line called on shoppers to support local high streets.
She said: “With the internet making it so easy to run a successful business without the traditional overheads of a bricks and mortar business, it’s no surprise to see a decline in the number of physical shops on our high streets.
“Shops are disappearing at an alarming rate, and with more than 10 million people living just a short walk away from a local high street, it is important for the estimated 100,000 shops that remain operating in these locations that people take advantage of them to stop them dying out.”
Direct Line is supporting a series of high street pop-up shops called “Clicks and Mortar” which aim to give independent online retailers a presence in town centres.