London — Britain’s high streets are losing shops, pubs and restaurants at record rates in the most testing retail and leisure climate in five years, research by PwC showed on Friday. A net 1,123 stores disappeared from Britain's top 500 high streets in the first half of 2018. A string of UK retailers has failed or announced plans to close shops. Toys R Us UK and electronics retailer Maplin went into administration this year, while department store chain House of Fraser was rescued by Sports Direct, and stalwarts such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have announced closures. PwC said the hardest hit retail categories were fashion stores and electrical outlets, both of which have seen a shift to online spending.

Pubs have been affected by people buying alcohol in supermarkets to consume at home, and restaurants are struggling to deal with cost inflation and oversupply after rapid expansion in recent years, it said. Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said the turmoil fa...

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