The gap left on the UK high street by the disappearance of Woolworths at the end of 2008 is gradually being filled - and it continues to be discount stores and supermarkets occupying this retail space at the fastest rate.
Local Data Company research shows that Iceland and 99p Stores have taken over more Woolies’ premises than any other retailer, while B&M Stores, Poundland and Tesco Express have also replaced many of the vacant shops.
According to the survey, 40 per cent of the former Woolworths outlets are still unfilled, representing a reduction of 20 per cent since July 2009.
Bargain retailers and supermarkets occupy 22 and 15 per cent of the space that has been filled respectively.
Matthew Hopkinson, Business Development Director at the Local Data Company, commented: “This snapshot shows that take-up of ex-Woolworths stores has continued, with a majority now being occupied.
“There are, however, a significant number that, for whatever reason, have not been reoccupied, some in centres that you would least expect such as Cirencester.”
Liz Peace, CEO of the British Property Federation, called it “heartening” that most of the former Woolworth’s stores now have new occupiers.
“This has filled vacant shops on high streets across the country – and more importantly has safeguarded vital jobs,” she said.
“And it is positive that just two per cent of the stores are now occupied by their second tenant, particularly given the rough ride experienced by retailers over the last couple of years.
“This suggests that there is real demand for the majority of businesses that are taking the space, despite ongoing concerns over consumer confidence.”
In an interview with Retail Gazette this month, 99p Stores Co-Founder and Commercial Director Hussein Lalani said that his company’s decision to take on a large percentage of the vacant retail space was “purely opportunistic”.
Explaining what an opportunity Woolies’ demise presented to other businesses, he remarked: “Never in the history of retail have around 820 shops become available overnight - and some of those sites were hugely premium sites.”