Bank branch closures placing strain on struggling high street retailers

Danske Bank says it will close its Larne and Ballynahinch branches in October

THE recent raft of bank branch closures is hastening the loss of local shops on the high street, new research shows.

A survey released by Nottingham Building Society found that 46 per cent of shop owners blame the loss of a local bank branch in the last three years for negatively impacting their business, while 24 per cent said it contributed to them going out of business within the last five years.

Small business owners are suffering as a result of lower footfall, with around 36 per cent of consumers saying they would make fewer visits to their town or village once their local bank branch closed.

Around 40 per cent said they would make at least three fewer visits a month as a result.

Shop owners in areas affected by branch closures estimate that their annual revenue dropped by an average of 20 per cent after the bank shut its doors.

It also found that 26 per cent were looking at moving their businesses to a new area or smaller premises nearby, while 31 per cent say they are considering shutting their high street stores and operating solely online.

The survey noted that 15 per cent were mulling job cuts.

Gary Womersley, head of branch network for Nottingham Building Society, said: "Financial institutions play a major role in local high streets drawing customers to shops and boosting sales and business.

"This is particularly true in market towns, where much of our focus is placed. Sadly, there are now as many as 1,500 towns in the UK that used to have branches but no longer do."

A Government report released earlier this year shows that 1,270 bank branches were closed between 2014 and 2017, with 650 cut last year alone.

Further closures have since been announced by the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland, which has confirmed it will close 162 branches across England and Wales.

Lloyds earlier this year also announced plans to shutter 49 branches across its Lloyds and Halifax brands between July and October.

In June Danske Bank announced it is to shut two more of its Northern Ireland branches later this year – Larne and Ballynahinch - to reduce its portfolio to 42. They will pull down the shutters on October 12

A separate study by the Nottingham Building Society released last month projects that a further 2,400 banks could close, putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

"We're seeing campaigns in the media calling for people to embrace their high streets and we fully back that but also recognise the need to evolve," Mr Womersley said.

"Expert advice and great service is integral to the strength of our branch network supporting our unique 'all-under-one-roof' strategy that offers building society and estate agency services to our customers."

The society's research has been part of a campaign to to highlight the value of bank branches to local towns and businesses, having doubled its network of branches to 67 over the past five years.

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