London, Apr 11 (AFP) The number of new store openings in Britain sank to its lowest level in seven years in 2017 due to weak consumer spending and strong online competition, a study showed today.

The total number of openings fell almost ten percent to 4,083 last year, audit group PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found in a survey of 500 town centres.

That was the lowest total since 2010 and compared with 4,534 in 2016.

At the same time, store closures increased nearly eight percent to 5,855 branches.

Overall, the net impact was that 1,772 shops disappeared from the British high street last year, the study found.

“2017 was tough for the British retail industry, particularly the second half of the year,” said PwC consumer markets leader Lisa Hooker in a report.

She added: “Wage growth failed to keep up with inflation — forcing many shoppers to think more carefully about their spending habits.

“On top of this, many retailers are increasingly feeling the impact of the acceleration of online shopping as consumers begin to feel more comfortable with the price transparency and reliability of delivery options offered by online players.” PwC added that nail bars, coffee shops, bookstores and craft beer pubs were “flourishing” because they served emerging consumer needs “such as experience-seeking Millennials” — and offered something that online players could not match.

Separately, in another gloomy development on Wednesday, internet-based British retailer Shop Direct said it would close three sites in Manchester in northern England from mid-2020 onwards, placing 2,000 jobs at risk.

The group, which owns Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, will shift operations to a new automated warehouse in the East Midlands in central England. (AFP) UZM UZM

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.