A seismic shift in consumer spending habits has led to the demise of many household names that formally dominated the high street. Informi (part of Association of Accounting Technicians) highlights five major companies lost from Britain’s high streets and retail parks during the last decade and spotlights digitally driven retailers that have gained ground
The last decade has seen a continuation of the e-commerce explosion that has dominated retail since the late 1990s. Since 2010, internet trading has matured beyond recognition, with customers now regularly streaming media, purchasing groceries and conducting their banking via the World Wide Web.
According to the Centre for Retail Research, the number of medium or large companies that have failed in the retail sector between 2010 and 2019 (to June) totals 372 – affecting over 18,000 stores and nearly 250,000 employees. This figure includes over 30,000 staff already affected this year alone – compared to less than 7,000 in the whole of 2015.
Fortunately, some of these business failures are major companies that plough on, but have fallen into difficult times, leading to restructuring or a temporary period of administration. Businesses such as Patisserie Valerie, Debenhams and L K Bennett, and are all recent additions to this category, but all continue to trade.
Others however no longer soldier on – at least in physical format.
5 businesses lost
Blockbuster Video was not around in the UK for all too long – with the first store opening in South London in 1989, following its purchase of the Ritz Video chain. Despite flourishing, rising to a height of 800+ stores in 2002, it had fallen to around the 500 mark when it went into administration in early 2013.
The rise in video streaming, mainly through Youtube but more recently with the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, all but sounded the death knell for the firm, and all UK stores had closed by the end of 2013. One store remains trading worldwide under the Blockbuster brand, in Oregon, US.
Kodak is another firm that is a blast from the past having largely disappeared from view in recent years after a period of dominance on the High Street.
Another American firm, the company ruled the photo film industry throughout much the 20th century, but the signs of struggle began even before the year 2000. A failure to move sharply enough into the digital camera scene, which has of course itself since been overtaken by mobile phone cameras and apps such as Instagram, led to Kodak declaring itself bankrupt in early 2012. A slimmed-down version of the company continues to trade.
Maplin has in fact managed the transition from physical to digital – but only after enduring plenty of pain and a collapse that saw the loss of 217 stores. The electronic goods retailer fell into administration in February 2018 and closed its physical presence within the next four months. It has retained a presence, however, re-relaunching online at the start of 2019.
The firm had in fact been undergoing dramatic expansion plans as recently as 2015. Initially operating as a mail order business in Essex when it was set up in 1972, the firm reached a turnover of more than £29 million by 1994, and had around 2,500 staff at the time of its collapse.
Toys ‘R’ Us
Toys ‘R’ Us has apparently totally disappeared from the UK forever, although it has helped spawn a replacement, Tru Kids, which will be at the forefront of its US re-launch.
The firm set up during the post-war baby boom, and used to be huge throughout the world. When it began filing for bankruptcy in late 2017, over 100 stores and nearly 3,000 jobs were put at risk in Britain. Administration followed in late February 2018, and a huge childhood favourite was lost.
The 2010s were particularly difficult for physical stores operating in electrical and electronic goods. Comet collapsed in late 2012 after just under 80 years of trading. The company was founded in Hull in 1933, initially charging batteries for wireless radios. It expanded its products and services over time, and by 2008 had some 240 shops, most of which were based on retail parks.
But the credit crunch, coupled with the rise of smartphones, tablets, and online competition, put a number of nails in Comet’s coffin. Again, the collapse was swift – Comet Group filed for administration on 1 November 2012, and the final store closed by the end of that year.
5 businesses gained
Online shopping is set to cater for around 40% of all UK retail sales, come the end of the 2020s.
Given this shift in consumer spending, there’s plenty of business winners over the decade – that were just a twinkle in their creator’s eye back on 1 January 2010.
It’s strange to think, given the amount of Deliveroo bicycles that roam the streets of many cities nowadays, that Roofoods Ltd was only founded in London in 2013. The online food delivery company now operates out of 200 cities worldwide, and had a four year revenue growth of 107,117% in November 2017 – which is a UK Technology Fast 50 Awards record.
Deliveroo has adapted the Uber model well – hiring around 20,000 bike users, on a self-employed basis, to courier restaurant orders direct to the customer’s door. The takeaway has been revolutionised as a result, but the firm hasn’t been without issues. Drivers have been on strike over pay conditions in London, Berlin, Belgium and the Netherlands to date.
There’s over 300 million active users of the photo and video sharing service – many of whom nowadays would much prefer liking photos of eggs than browsing the newsfeed of Facebook, who now own Instagram.
The app was released in October 2010, initially on Apple products only, with an Android version following in April 2012 – the same month Facebook acquired Instagram for around $1 billion. It is now estimated to be worth approximately 35 times that amount.
The Tinder app first came into the lives of singletons during 2012, registering around one billion ‘swipes’ just two years later (no evidence has been forthcoming on what way users have predominantly swiped, however).
By August 2018, Tinder was reporting over 3.8 million paid subscribers – up 81% on the previous year – and it’s now available in more than 40 different languages. It faces strong competition in a heavily saturated market, but Tinder still leads the way as the world’s most popular dating app.
Another product which was owned by social media giants Facebook, it’s extraordinary to think WhatsApp wasn’t around a decade ago; given how it has displaced text messages in the lives of millions of mobile phone users.
Taken over by Facebook in early 2014 for $19 billion, WhatsApp has continued its growth, launching WhatsApp Business for small business use in 2018, along with group audio and video call features later in the year.
Not perhaps the household name of the other companies, but proof that it’s not just social networking firms or those reliant on self-employed workers who have succeeded in the 2010s.
Secret Escapes was founded in London in 2011, and it sells heavily discounted luxury travel to members of its website and mobile app. The firm operates out of 12 countries to date, has over 19 million members who have bought over 2 million nights in hotel rooms, and secured $60 million in a 2016 funding round.