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North-south divide in shop vacancies


Towns and cities in the south of England have far healthier retail occupancy levels then their counterparts in the north, a new study has revealed.

Altrincham has the lowest occupancy levels of any town in the country with over 30 per cent of shops lying empty, whilst the north-west is the worst performing region.

The report by The Local Data Company, a retail and leisure industries data provider, shows that during the six months to June only a few UK cities and towns have seen retail occupancy rise.

Matthew Hopkinson, business development director at The Local Data Company, commented: “Our latest report shows the reality of a slowed but still rising increase in shop vacancy rates across the country.

“Whilst some centres, particularly central London and the south-east are showing stabilisation or improvement, others in the provinces are not.”

Of the 400 towns and cities analysed, 73 improved their occupancy rates over the last six months, 25 of these consistently improved their rates over the last year only one of which was based outside of the south of England.

In terms of the 20 worst performing areas, in middle-sized centres Brixton was the only southern entry, whilst in large centres the south was represented by only Bristol and Reading.

Grimsby’s empty shops increased by eight per cent, the largest rise of the large centres, whilst of the medium size towns both Warrington and Harrow increased their vacancy rates by over 11 per cent.

Liz Peace, CEO of the British Property Federation, said: “It is encouraging to see high streets recovering in the south, but that glimmer of positive news does not hide the fact that retail markets elsewhere are struggling, and that consumer confidence is still fragile.”

Despite many retailers recording sales increases in recent months, the report warns that both Game and Confetti closing stores in recent months should sound as a warning to the wider industry.

With VAT rises and public sector cuts on the way it is likely that retail success will be further divided along geographical lines and the report urges local communities to work together to support retailers.

Peace added: “This data highlights the need for government initiatives to help regional centres, such as proposals for Local Enterprise Partnerships, the £1 billion Regional Growth Fund, and its National Insurance holiday for companies hiring new staff, to be implemented quickly and effectively.

“Filling empty shops will never be easy or quick. Both banks and landlords need to show a proactive approach to managing property, while local authorities have a key role to play in promoting flexibility and innovation in areas suffering from a high number of vacancies.”

Published on Thursday 09 September by Editorial Assistant

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