It really is becoming a dire situation for our nations beloved high streets. 2012 was a bad year, but 2013 has started off in probably the worst way possible. Jessops has closed it’s doors for good, with HMV teetering on the edge of total and final closure as well. But believe it or not, these are not the only large retail businesses that have gone to the wall already this year! is a website that covers all things retail, but they also have a dedicated section which lists all the medium to large retail businesses that have gone bust. These lists go back to 2007. As you would expect, the last couple of years has been the most damaging for our high streets, so the lists are pretty long. You can go here to check them all out:

When I looked at the lists, it really made for a shocking reading. To save you spending more time than you should on here, below is just the 2012 list of retail businesses that went bust:

  • Green & Blue Wines
  • Wine Shak
  • Nidd Vale Motors
  • Manor Furniture
  • Whiteleys Garden Centre in Mirfield
  • Walmsley’s
  • Famous Footwear
  • The Web Group
  • Comet
  • J Harris & Sons
  • United Carpets
  • Romida Sports
  • Optical Express
  • Stratford Wine Agencies
  • Mostyn’s
  • JJB Sports
  • Hein Gericke UK
  • Fultons Fine Furnishings
  • Ethel Austin
  • Bathroom Emporium
  • Julian Graves
  • Allders of Croydon
  • Cecil Jacobs
  • Peters Bakery
  • Masai GB
  • Rhythm and Booze
  • Wallace Clement Interiors
  • Joscelyne
  • Clinton Cards
  • Micro Anvika
  • Allied Floors
  • D&d Wines International
  • Carsite
  • Instyle Furniture and the R&M Deluxe Upholstery/Holdings
  • Acquascutum
  • John Frackleton and Son
  • Houston Fashions
  • Webb Brothers
  • Ellie Louise
  • DBC Foodservice
  • Game Group
  • Firetrap
  • Azendi
  • Fenn Wright Manson
  • Shoe Envy
  • Madhouse (or Deluxe Retail Limited)
  • Rowlands Clothing of Trowbridge (Wiltshire)
  • Twickenham Film Studies
  • Shoon Limited
  • Abbeycrest
  • Ugo
  • United Retail
  • Pumpkin Patch
  • Peacocks
  • La Senza
  • Past Times
  • Blacks Leisure

That is a long list. The companies above have all entered administration, most have closed it’s doors for good, some have been partially bought out and there is the ODD success story in that, but there aren’t many. To see a description of the downfall of all the companies above, click the link in the second paragraph above. Here’s who have gone bust so far in these few short days in 2013:

  • Jessops, the only national UK camera retailer, was the first major retailer to go into administration in 2013. It had grown from around 50 stores in 1994, acquired Camera Crew and City Camera Exchange, and had more than 200 stores by 2002. It sold its central premises in 2008, avoided administration in 2009 by carrying out a debt for equity swap (involving HSBC taking 47% of its equity and a £34mn debt write-off). Still trading as a going concern, there are 193 stores and 2,000 staff, although it is unlikely that many will survive.
  • In France, Virgin Megastores (1000 staff and 25 stores) is to close under pressure from online competition. Our legal advisors point out that it is owned by an investment company not Sir Richard Branson.
  • Italy: FNAC and Blockbuster have announced they will close their Italian operations.
  • Ethel Austin/Life&Style: the administrators have stated that they may take action against ‘certain parties’ as a result of the failure of Life&Style in 2011.
  • K Village, a shopping outlet opened in Kendall in June 2010, went into administration in January. It failed to attract sufficient tenants.

A lot of the companies above you may not know other than the more famous brand names and stores. That doesn’t matter really. What matters is the amount of jobs that have been lost. While the Government claims to have created 1 million jobs, if you were to offset that against the total number of jobs lost in the same amount of time in the UK, you’re almost treading water.

As you can appreciate, debate about our high streets has been high over the last week or so. And it has been pointed out that it is a combination of factors that has led to the demise of our main shopping destinations. Firstly, rent is crippling the companies occupying retail space. It’s risen, risen, and risen again. To the point that for some, it just simply cannot be paid and they have to close. Secondly, our high streets have become highly pedestrianised. This is fine, but it has severely restricted the amount of traffic that can physically drive there, restricting the number of people that can get there. Even if cars can get there, the parking spaces consist of hugely expensive multi-storey car parks that costs a fortune – again putting the consumer off from going and making the prospect of online shopping farm more attractive.

Third reason is probably the most common one. Many of us will go visit a high street store, say PC World for example. We’ll go look at at potential product we want to buy, put it in our hands, ask the advice of the staff there, then go home, find it online cheaper and have it delivered – robbing the store of a vital sale. It’s not against the rules to do that, but it is the nature in which we all shop now. We all know we can get goods online much cheaper than in stores with overheads that need covering. It’s just very convenient that there are still stores out there selling physical good we can inspect before going online and saving quite a chunk of money on the same product. That’s the way our spending habits have evolved and the high street chains have been guilty of either ignoring that fact or just been poorly led by the wrong people in charge.

There is much sympathy pouring out for the demise of HMV, but I don’t think we can she too many tears given the fact that we’re the ones buying music online on mass and not going into the stores ourselves and buying the CD’s…even if they are over-priced!

So, how long left do our high street stores have left? My personal opinion is that there is maybe two or three years left before the high street as we know it disappears from sight altogether. Of course these streets won’t be allowed to become the desolate wastelands left for the chavs to tear up. But in terms of powerful multi-store businesses populating these spaces, I don’t think there is much sand left in the timer for any of them right now.