High Street wipeout gathers pace as Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge set to disappear from Sheffield
A High Street wipeout is picking up pace after Asos snapped up TopShop, TopMan, Miss Selfridge and fitness brand HIIT.
The booming online fashion retailer bought just the brand names and some stock from Sir Philip Green's collapsed Arcadia retail empire. It means 300 physical shops will close with the loss of 2,500 jobs.
In Sheffield, Meadowhall will be hardest hit since it is home to all three, affecting hundreds of workers.
It comes after online retailer Boohoo last week bought the Debenhams brand from administrators who said all 118 stores would close - including department stores on The Moor and in Meadowhall - after selling off stock.
Non-essential retailers are currently closed due the pandemic. Once allowed to reopen, Debenhams sites are expected to trade for up to six weeks before closing for good, when all 10,000 staff will be made redundant.
Boohoo lost out to Asos in the Topshop deals - but it is said to be front runner in the race for Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Wallis. In Sheffield that would affect The Moor, Meadowhall and Crystal Peaks shopping centre.
If successful, few would bet against even more shop closures and job losses.
In a few short weeks at the start of 2021, a roster of famous and loved fashion chains are set to be swept away by two internet rivals with a tsunami of cash.
It is a personal tragedy for thousands of workers, many of whom have been on and off furlough for months, and their families.
The high-profile store closures will have an impact on the city centre and Meadowhall, while the once ubiquitous brands will become a sideshow on huge websites and could eventually fade away.
Meanwhile, empty stores mean fewer business rates collected by Sheffield City Council, affecting services for citizens.
And the building owners will stop receiving rent, which might seem to be someone else’s problem except many city centre shops are owned by institutional investors such as pension funds and a hit to them means a hit to people’s pensions.
Sheffield commercial property agent Tim Bottrill said Sheffield city centre could bounce back quicker because it had more options to give empty shops new uses including offices and flats.
Meadowhall has been focusing on leisure, including food and drink, over the last five years and has plans for a £150m leisure extension. It is not known whether the loss of a very large Debenhams and potentially a Topshop and Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, and Miss Selfridge will affect the plans.
Mr Bottrill said: “We have all changed the way we shop and high volume, low margin stores are struggling against rivals online. Short term there will be some empty shops.
“In Sheffield it’s an opportunity for new entrants into the market. Landlords will probably have to take lower rents and that will force them to come up with alternative uses for the upper floors. Currently between 90 and 100 per cent of the value on Fargate is on the ground floor.
“The city centre could bounce back a bit quicker due to its diversity of population with people working, living, eating and drinking and at leisure.”
One example is the former TopShop and TopMan next to M&S on Fargate. It closed last year, half is now a Superdrug and the other half is a new entrance to new offices in the building above.
Boohoo is owned by Manchester billionaire Mahmud Kamani. Subsidiary PrettyLittleThing employs hundreds at a massive warehouse in Darnall.
Asos has an even bigger one near Grimethorpe in Barnsley. They enjoyed gigantic sales during the pandemic as physical stores were closed to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Both will be recruiting after their buying spree, Mr Bottrill added.
“All these changes were taking place before, but Covid has accelerated them all.”
Gary Hides, director of Castus web design in Sheffield said: “Hasn't it been said for years that the high street needs help to compete against online? High street has to hold stock, staff the stores, pay rent and crazy rates. Also likely to pay more in tax.
“Covid has sped up the clock. But it was going to happen anyway - my humble opinion
I don't like it though. I would prefer a more diverse high street but tax rules, rents and rates need to change drastically to allow for that to happen.
“How many small one off stores stay open for five-plus years?
Dale Greetham, principal planner at ADAS in Leeds, said: “ASOS buying Topshop/Topman is sad news for the high street, particularly given it appears to be a sustainable business that could sustain a physical presence in many locations.
“This appears to be an online retailer cannibalising the high street because they have more capital to pay with given their lack of overheads.”
And Justin Strong, a Manchester-based PR director, said: “Huge bricks and mortar holes left to be filled by troubled landlords - there are only so many leisure attractions to replace them and can high street alternatives such as offices and residential work at shopping centres?”
Debenhams was valued at £1.7billion when it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2006 and made record profits by 2013. Last year its shares were worthless after recent annual losses approached £500million.
It collapsed into administration for a second time in December.