HIGH streets across the country continue to struggle in a testing retail climate, a new report has found, but some North-East towns are bucking this trend.

The latest PwC analysis of high streets and town centres across Great Britain found that Darlington was one of just three locations across the North-East to see a positive net change in the number of stores in the first half of the year.

Although the score was just plus one – as a result of two stores opening and one store closing during the first half of 2019 – across the North-East there was a net loss of 38 stores, compared with a net loss of 71 during the same period a year previously.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said it was "great news". but added there was still "much more that needed doing".

Only three town centres across the North-East saw a positive net change in the first half of the year – Newcastle, Gosforth and Darlington. The North-East towns with the highest net reduction were South Shields, Stockton, North Shields, Chester-le-Street, Morpeth and Blyth.

Nationally, 1,234 British shops departed the high street in the first six months of the year, the highest level since the start of the analysis in 2010.

In total, an average of 16 stores a day closed, with continued growth in online shopping, shift to in-home leisure and heightened restructuring activity the reasons to blame, according to the report.

The research also revealed that across multiple retailers in the 18 town centres analysed across the North East, pubs, bookmakers, fashion and men’s clothes shops experienced the highest net fall in the number of outlets.

Ms Chapman said: "It is great news – people care a lot about our town centre and this is very welcome, but there is so much more that needs doing.

"The long term future of House of Fraser is important and we need to support the independent traders in the town."

Jonathan Greenaway, PwC’s Newcastle office senior partner, said: “The positive for the region is that year on year the net fall in stores has slowed, however quite simply openings across the region aren’t replacing closures at a fast enough rate with some of our towns experiencing no new openings – that said the North East has fared better than most.

“The reality for many of us is that we now prefer to shop online and increasingly eat, drink and entertain at home. As a result the high street is having to adapt to an overcapacity in retail and leisure space resulting from these channel shifts.

“The key for retailers and leisure operators is to continue looking at their businesses, ensuring they have a strong brand, product offering and essentially a clear proposition. It’s also equally important to consider having an integrated store and online presence."