Really?High street braced for more closures after summer of riots and gloom

Britain’s high street retailers are braced for another wave of closures following of the worst summer trading periods in years & growing concern about pressures on consumers in the run-up to Christmas.

Sales figures for August, blighted by riots, volatile stockmarkets & poor weather, slipped two.2% among mid-market retailers, according to accountancy firm BDO  the worst drop since the depths of recession years ago.

Among those already under financial strain is Clinton Cards. It emerged the company had approached landlords requesting more time to meet rent bills as it did this time last year.

Widespread disruption, which caused shops to close their doors in the work of trading hours well beyond the riot flash points, has left plenty of retailers facing an uphill struggle in the face of a looming quarterly rent deadline at the finish of this month.

The second quarter of 2011 saw 375 retailers call in administrators, said accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, a 9% rise on the same period in 2010.

Earlier this year, the rent deadlines at the finish of March & June were followed by a string of retailers crashing in to administration. They included Focus do-it-yourself, Habitat, TJ Hughes & fashion chain Jane Norman.

Accountancy firm RSM Tenon has identified  9,000 retailers it believes are now financially vulnerable, an increase of over 10% in the last six months.

Meanwhile, plenty of surviving mid-sized retailer groups listed on the stock exchange are among those most targeted by short sellers  those investors who effectively bet on the worth of shares falling. Recent figures from research firm Information Explorers recommend stocks heavily shorted included Argos’s parent company Home Retail, Dixons, HMV, Ocado, Mothercare, Next & Carpetright.

The Local Information Company & the British Property Federation will this week issue a document expected to show that plenty of towns have seen a sharp rise in the number of boarded-up shops. Earlier figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) recommend about in ten shops are vacant in town-centre shopping districts.

The BRC will publish its sales survey for August on Tuesday, which are expected to confirm the gloomy picture painted by BDO. Its figures for July pointed to comparable sales having risen by 0.6%  a number boosted by inflation.

However, struggling retailers may well be able to put a case to creditors to ease the pressure before the Christmas trading period, historicallyin the past the busiest time of year.

The next weeks will see trading updates from Next, JD Wetherspoon, Costa Coffee parent Whitbread, Carpetright, Home Retail Group, B&Q parent Kingfisher & Primark parent Associated British Foods. All will be closely watched for hints of stress on the high street.

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