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‘Demolition or alternative use’ only option for empty shops

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1 in 7 shops continue to lie empty whilst more shops are built and leisure units take the lead in growth rates.

The Local Data Company’s latest report on vacancy rates entitled ‘Shopped Out’ analyses over 1,900 town centres, shopping centres and retail parks visited in the first half of 2013. Whilst the shop vacancy rate in the top 650 town centres has remained stable at just above 14 per cent, it masks significant differences in performance by location.

The North/South divide is clearly apparent with the North West critical at 1 in 5 shops lying vacant. Of the top 25 worst centres for vacant shops, all of whom are above 25 per cent, 21 are in the North, Midlands or Wales. Conversely, of the top 25 best performing centres with the least vacant shops, 22 are south of the ‘Watford Gap’.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company commented: “Demolition or alternative use is the only option for the vast majority of these ‘surplus to requirement’ shops.

“Both the Portas and Grimsey high street reviews highlight the impact that vacant shops are having on communities up and down the country and call for Government to take action in a wide number of areas. What is common to all is that we have too many shops in this country and many are not fit for a role within the new omni-channel/digital environment.”

Small towns are in the healthiest state at 9.2 per cent. Retail parks follow at 9.6 per cent but have shown the most significant decline in the last 6 months with a rise of 0.8 per cent. High profile casualties such as Comet will have contributed. The most distress in vacancy rates overall is to be found within shopping centres where the average is 16.1 per cent, which is significantly above large cities and towns (400+shops) at 13.5 per cent and medium towns (200-399 shops) at 11.9 per cent. This is at an all time high from 15.6 per cent in 2012.

Regional analysis shows significant variations between different areas. Shop vacancy in London is 9 per cent whilst in the North West it is more than twice that at 20 per cent.

The best performing large centre is Cambridge with an improving vacancy rate of 7 per cent, followed by York at 7.1 per cent. Again, London and the South East dominate the table of best performers, but York, Harrogate, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Stratford upon Avon all make an appearance.

Of most surprise is that whilst 1 in 7 shops continue to remain empty, a further 403 shop units have been added to the stock in the first half of 2013, which is a 0.3 per cent growth. Greatest growth, however, is seen from leisure uses, which have grown at three times this rate at 0.9 per cent, which is an additional 525 units.

Published on Tuesday 10 September by Editorial Assistant

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