Shop vacancy spreads across the country

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Nearly 12% of shops in Britain’s high streets now stand empty. These dire statistics, which deteriorated from just over 4% in the middle of 2008, illustrate the malaise spreading across the country and affecting all levels of retail from the largest regional centres to the smallest high streets.

Amongst the main areas, worst hit are the big regional centres in the North and Midlands, with Derby, Liverpool and Leeds all seeing over 20% of their retail capacity vacant. The South fares slightly better with Croydon and Exeter the only representatives in the top ten with just over and just under 15% vacancy respectively. Central London sees a vacancy rate of nearly 13%. Generally, smaller centres appear to be doing slightly better than larger ones overall.

These are the findings of the Local Data Company survey carried out across over 700 town centres. The survey also examined the impact of Woolworths’ demise which created in excess of 800 vacant prime retail units, affecting virtually every town centre in the country. “The fact that only about 20% of the Woolworths have been sold says a lot about current retail demand and, while a substantial number of other units have been let by landlords, this has left a huge hole in many town centres across the country.”

Some of Woolworths’ empty stores have been acquired by Iceland which took approximately 50 sites, with the likes of Bargain Madness, 99p Stores, Heron Frozen Foods, Poundland, Home Bargains and Carpet Right acquiring many of the remaining stores.

The British Property Federation (BPF), which backed the report, calls for the scrapping of empty property rates (EPR) as well as a re-think on changing the planning use of buildings to enable empty shops to be more efficiently used for non-retail pursuits.

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