Shop vacancy rates have soared from a year ago as the high street adapts to a new retail era, according to research released today.
Commissioned by the BBC, the Local Data Company surveyed 500 towns and cities across the UK and found that the national average for shop vacancies now stands at 14 per cent, up from 10.5 per cent a year ago.
Although some retailers are retreating from the high street, during the six months of this year 2,633 restaurants, cafes, and fast food outlets opened and 2,145 hairdressers and beauty salons started up across the 500 surveyed centres.
Matthew Hopkinson of the Local Data Company commented: “This survey has shown that a significant part of the high street’s issues are not related to the recession; it is more a reflection of our changing shopping habits.
“The internet was widely heralded as the death knell for the high street, but the data shows that shopping in person is still a key pastime for many.”
Off-licences and travel agent outlets have been disappearing from UK streets over the last year but the number of charity shops and convenience format supermarkets have increased considerably.
Altrincham was the worst affected area for empty shops, with 29.6 per cent of properties vacant, closely followed by Stockton-on-Tees, Rotherham and Margate which all had a rate higher than 25 per cent.
Liz Peace, CEO of the British Property Federation, said: “The rise of internet shopping coupled with the recession is forcing high streets to adapt or to die.
“Only those centres that can quickly meet our day-to-day needs, or that can offer a fun shopping experience, will continue to thrive.”