More than 80% of the UK’s department stores have been lost since the demise of BHS and many former branches still lie empty. 

Five years ago, department store groups including BHS, Debenhams and House of Fraser had 467 branches, but now only 79 remain, according to data compiled by commercial property information specialist CoStar Group for the BBC.

The data showed that of the 388 department stores that had closed, 237 still stand vacant. However, plans are in place or in process for a change of use or repurposing at 52 of them. 

Department stores have been under pressure for some time as shopping habits changed, and the Covid pandemic undermined attempts by some to turn operations around.

CoStar Group head of analytics Mark Stansfield said: “The data undoubtedly highlights the acceleration of change in the retail sector in recent years, which the pandemic has only exacerbated.”

However, he was optimistic that new uses would be found for properties and said: “We are increasingly seeing forward-thinking real estate owners getting ahead of the problem and reshaping what are key assets in our town centres to provide a focal point for regeneration.

“I think we’ll see many more plans come to light in the coming months. With these store closures come new opportunities.”