A new report suggests Dundee’s high streets and retail parks have been “blighted” with closures in the last year.
Analysis produced by the Local Data Company for professional services network Price-waterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that while 17 shops opened in the city in 2018, 22 closed.
It means Dundee has five fewer stores than it did at the end of 2017, with one closing on average every two and a half weeks.
Experts say the picture is rosier than in recent years – but nowhere near as buoyant as it has been in the past.
Mark Addley, head of business recovery services for PwC in Scotland, said: “We may have seen a reduction in the number of stores closing across Scotland, but this is coupled with store openings at almost half the total we were seeing five years ago.
“We have already seen casualties in 2019 and we expect to see more, with retailers facing an uphill battle to survive, never mind thrive.”
Dundee’s store offering has been hit by the loss of larger chains across the UK. Kingsway West Retail Park alone lost Toys R Us, Maplin and Homebase last year.
Carphone Warehouse also closed a Dundee store in 2018, as did fashion chain New Look and there are few signs of the purge of the city’s high streets coming to an end any time soon.
This year souvenir shop Tartan House has packed up on the Murraygate, as has Virgin Media’s Overgate outlet.
Cooper & McKenzie, one of the oldest shops in Dundee, pulled down the shutters at the end of January after 144 years.
And Debenhams faces uncertainty after falling into the hands of lenders this week.
However, the situation is in a better position now than it was in 2017, with the deficit between units closing and opening growing narrower year on year.
In 2018 the drop in units open was 2.1% – less than the Scottish average of 3.65%.
New retailers have also been quick to spring up where others have fallen, among them vaping shop Refill Station, gym chain Xercise4Less and TJ Hughes, which returned to the city in 2018 after a seven-year absence.
Lynne Short (pictured right), Dundee City Council’s city development convener, said locals are alive to the challenges facing Scotland’s high streets.
She said: “You always expect churn on the high streets (where one shop closes and another opens in its place). However, what we’ve seen in our city, even since the end of 2018, is a change of direction towards service-led businesses rather than just shops.
“It’s changing the way we view the city centre.
“Some places, such as the Keiller Centre and the Wellgate, have needed longer-term plans and we’re seeing them diversify.The Keiller is lending itself to Dundee Design Festival and the Wellgate has places like TJ Hughes and the gym.”
She added: “We’re constantly looking at ways to support, help and encourage people to use the high street.”
PwC’s Mr Addley added that many new businesses are adapting to a changing high street.
He said: “The high street of the future will not be solely dependent on traditional stores.
“Across Great Britain, we are seeing a growth in the numbers of gyms and ice cream parlours for example. We need more of this new way of thinking.
“The relatively low number of openings means our high streets are becoming more blighted with empty store fronts.
“Decisions will need made on what exactly a high street is for in 2019 with local authorities and landlords having to consider repurposing sites.”