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Homebase has been sold for a pound, Marks and Spencer is closing more stores – can the nation of shopkeepers survive?

Sarah Butler, Zoe Wood and Phillip Inman
Sat 26 May 2018 16.00 BST Last modified on Sun 27 May 2018 00.10 BST

In one fell swoop DIY giant Homebase became the high street’s latest pound shop last week after its Australian owner, Wesfarmers,offloaded the loss-making chain for a token sum to a restructuring firm.

The deal is expected to trigger fresh pain on a high street that is already shedding stores and jobs at a faster rate than during the recession in 2009. Major high-street names including Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Top-shop and House of Fraser are also struggling.

On Friday the homewares chain Dunelm issued a profit warning, blaming “challenging” conditions. So why is life so tough on the high street?

Online rivals
It is hardly a surprise that the high street is under pressure as the internet has hoovered up about a fifth of all retail spending, with non-food sales online rising by 7.5% in the past year. Now smartphones are ubiquitous, it is possible to buy a sofa on the bus, a designer handbag from the sofa or a new kitchen while in bed.

The internet has made life challenging for retailers in a number of ways. 

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