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Which companies have crumbled in the latest high street crash and why?

Farewell: Hi-Lex and Thomas Cook are two of the latest victims in the high street crash. Source: Gerald England (via Wikipedia)

By Anastasiia Kropotina

Over the past month, it may seem like the British high street has changed drastically as some of its biggest names have shut down stores across Britain.

One of the most recent collapses has been Bonmarché; the fashion retailer has recently gone into administration, putting around 2,900 jobs at risk. The firm’s administrator, Tony Wright, has commented on the situation and assured, although the retailer has faced challenges in the past few years, all stores are to remain open and no redundancies have been made. Meanwhile, some feel that the firm faces a rebranding struggle if it wants to appease the modern customer.

It is not solely clothing or UK-wide retailers facing this economic phenomenon, however, as the high street collapse has seen businesses in Wales suffering, too. Port Talbot car parts company, Hi-Lex, recently announced it will close its doors in 2021 resulting in the loss of 125 jobs, and in early October, a retailer in Merthyr Tydfil, Triumph Furniture, went into administration following a major fall in sales.

Triumph Furniture was a family-run business founded in 1946. The retailer’s Chief Executive, Andrew Jackson, said, “The family is devastated…The business has suffered a rapid and catastrophic collapse in orders since the middle of July, which has been impossible to recover from, despite every effort.”

However, the most high profile collapse of all in recent months was the collapse of travel company Thomas Cook which went under in September 2019. The oldest tour operator in the UK has shut down 600 of its high street stores and four company airlines, leaving 21,000 employees without jobs; 9,000 of these people were UK-based. What’s more, more than 150,000 British citizens were left stranded abroad, waiting to be repatriated from their holidays.

However, Thomas Cook was then bought out by Hays Travel who then announced that all former Thomas Cook stores in Wales would be reopened as Hays Travel branches with all former members of staff being reemployed.

The first few rebranded stores have since opened in South Wales, for example, one Thomas Cook branch on Queen Street, Cardiff, opened recently. Despite still sporting Thomas Cook branding inside and out, the Queen Street store has reported a lot of customers.

As the high street crash persists, one possible explanation could be profit loss because more money is now going to online retailers. Online-only stores theoretically do not have to pay as many staff costs, nor do they pay for rent or bills. Moreover, more and more websites providing similar services to physical stores for free or for a lesser price.

Some retailers, however, are also blaming Brexit uncertainty for their closures. The Guardian reports that in the past year alone, retailers have cut 85,000 jobs due to consumer preferences for online shopping and uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU. How many more retailers might we see join the likes of Woolworths and Blockbuster Video?

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