10 Stores That Have Disappeared From The UK High Streets

Unless you live, and shop, in a cave, you have heard, and seen first hand how difficult it is and has been for shops and stores on the High Street. It seems like an almost daily occurrence to read or hear about closures, and not just small regional store chains, but large national corporations.

It would seem that no one is immune to losing business and possibly having to go bust.

As to why we are seeing so many store closures, there are many factors, but some that we hear about more often are:

* The economy: Some store chains blame the economy, as money gets tight, people consume less, and don’t buy as much.

* Consumers changing habits: As consumers we are a fickle lot. There are fashion trends we follow or are led to, and also fads come and go. We also have begun shopping more online.

* Business rates and high overheads: Many stores attribute their demise to high overheads, in particular high business rates. The government has stated they are going to look into this, and introduce lower business rates on some of the High Streets.

* Online sales: As consumers increase the number of purchases online, if a store does not a web site or an Internet presence, they are going to miss out and lose out on a percentage of sales.

“Showrooming” is popular these days. You go to a brick and mortar store to look at an item, then go and purchase the item online.

* Too much debt: The fact is that many retail chains that went bust were carrying too much debt. The debt could have come from rapid expansion, that happened too quickly, or the sales were not thee and the company borrowed and borrowed to stay afloat until they could borrow no more.

There are many other reasons and factors at play here, but these are usually given as the major players.

As you can see, many of these play into each other and are a part of similar themes. Whatever the reason, the main theme is they have closed and are gone.

When a shop or store, or any business for that matter goes into Administration and liquidation, it is a sad day for all.

The store’s employees lose their jobs, as customers we lose a place to purchase items we have liked and been used to, and of course it just looks bad having empty stores line our streets.

Some of the closures over the years have been surprising! Iconic chains that have seemed to been around forever, suddenly closing their doors. Generations of shoppers no longer able to shop there.

In looking at this list, and it is not an exhaustive or near complete list of stores that have closed, some you may remember, and some you may not. Not all the closures were as high profile as others.

In addition, some stores in larger retail chains may have been saved. Investors bought a few of the more profitable stores, and kept them open.

One thing you may notice about this list of closures, and any list of closures is that many of these have occurred in the last 10 years, and some in just the past five (5) years. That is how we are seeing the problem grow, and why it needs to be addressed.

So 10 stores and retail chains that have disappeared off the High Street, in no certain order:

Shops That Have Closed


Woolworths closed in 2009, with the loss of 807 stores, and 27,000 employees across the country. The retail chain were iconic and had been around for decades.

The chain had over £350 million in debts! This is part was a reason for the stores going under.

As when all stores, especially large retail chains go into Administration, buyers are sought out; investors to buy and try to save the chain.

In the instance of Woolworths, with so much debt, no buyers could be found.


Peacocks went into Administration in 2012, and is an example of what we previously mentioned, about buyers being sought out to save the chain.

While not all stores could be saved, the Edinburgh Wool Mill purchased 224 of the stores, and wile there were 10,000 jobs on the line, only 3,100 lost their jobs. I know, 3.100 is still a lot.


Another high profile chain closure.

Comet had been in business for 79 years went it went bust in 2012. We didn’t really see the closures coming.

The company was founded by George Hollingbery in Hull in 1933. At its peak they had 45 stores across the UK, and employed 6,500 people.


Here is where not just a change in consumer’s way of purchasing affected a retail store, but also technology.

In 2007 Zavvi was founded and bought out Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Record shops. Branson had started Virgin Records as a record label and mail order (initially) record store in 1971.

Back in 1971 we all bought records. The 60’s and 70’s were the golden era of vinyl.

Fast forward to 2007 and consumers purchased CD’s and DVD’s.

In addition, purchases of CD’s and DVD’s were being made online, and the use of downloading music and films was growing; and as consumers we followed the technology trend.

Zavvi lasted just over a year and in December 2008 went into Administration.

While sad, the storey gets slightly happier, than it takes a tragic twist!

Zavvi had 125 stores in total and 3,300 employees.

HMV (His Master’s Voice)

Zavvi’s story continues and ends with HMV, another large retailer for CD’s, DVD’s and other music and music fashion items.

HMV purchased and saved some of he Zavvi shops in some cities, which is a happier ending for some involved. However, once again as stated, the market and technology was changing, and HMV got sucked in the vortex of this change.

HMV went into Administration as well in 2013. At that time the company had 4,350 employees at the time of going under.

One of the problems HMV had was market saturation. In many cities there were were more than one (1) shop. Having two or more shops in the same city only works for some fast food chains and other retailers. With the market and technology changing, sales at HMV could not support the additional expense of two shops.

Administrators looking for buyers of HMV were contacted by Hilco Capital Ireland, who purchased 141 stores, which saved 2,500 jobs.

To our knowledge as of this writing those shops have closed as well. One would speculate due to once again the market changing. If a consumer does still purchase CD’s or DVD’s, Amazon and other Internet sellers still sell them cheaply enough, and offer free shipping, and Netflix streams films.

Technology has moved us away from the brick and mortar shops to buy these items, they are available 27/7/365 online via streaming, music or films.

JJB Sports

JJB Sports were a huge player in the world of sportswear and accessories. They had 180 stores, and employed over 2,200 people.

In 2012 the company went into Administration, having been founded in 1971 by Dave Whelan.

In 2010 the company was said to be worth £500 million! However, by 2012 it was worth £1.2 million.

Sports Direct bought 20 of the stores, the brand, and the web site for over £28 million.

Sports Direct is facing their own struggle currently on the High Street as well. Time will tell how they do.

Let’s look at some recent High Street closures.

Toys r Us

Toys r Us was founded in 1948 in the United States, and expanded into Canada and also the UK.

Just this year the company announced they were struggling financially, in part due to an increase in consumers making online purchases, and the company began looking for buyers.

As no buyers were found, the company entered into Administration and closed 105 stores, with a loss of 2,000 jobs.


British Home Stores, another icon on the High Street, and had been with us for 88 years!

In 2016 the company went into Administration, and as no buyers were found, the company was liquidated.

There was and still is some controversy regarding the closures.

While lagging sales, consumers online purchasing and high overheads were all cited for the loss and closures, it was found the owners took out £30 million or more prior to the company going bust.


While the technological and mobile business world is very competitive, you would think there would be enough sales to go around.

Once major mobile carrier EE made the decision to sever ties with Phones4U, it in essence forced the company into Administration in September 2014.

As no buyers were found, the stores were closed.


Also recently this year Maplins around the same time as Toys r Us, announced they were struggling financially, and in February went into Administration, and by March went completely bust, closing their doors.

Maplins had 200 stores across the country, and a staff of 2,500.

The company which had been around for 40 years, stated the weakening pound and the Brexit aided in bringing the company down.

Other Store Closures

Here is a list of other High Street shops that have closed in the past 10 or so years, and the year they went out of business:

* Jessops: 2013

* Barratts: 2013

* Past Times: 2012

* Threshers: 2009

* Staples: 2016

* Banana Republic: 2016

* Austin Reed: 2016

* Athena: 2014

* Blockbuster: 2013

* Tie Rack: 2013

* Borders: 2011

* Jane Norman: 2011

* Focus: 2011

* Principles: 2009

* Dixons: 2006

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