Three years after its liquidation, the percentage of units formerly occupied by Woolworths which still lie vacant has more than halved in the last 12 months, according to a new report out today.
In January 2011 30 per cent of ex-Woolworths were still empty but in the last year that has declined to just 13 per cent, according to the Local Data Company (LDC), and several retailers have profited from taking over stores which often anchor units in the heart of town centres.
Discount stores have been the largest invaders of these spaces, with Poundland the biggest beneficiary taking seven per cent of Woolworths former store portfolio, while supermarket expansion has accounted for the occupancy of another 17 per cent of the total.
Along with Poundland, Iceland, 99p Stores, B&M Bargains, Poundstretcher, Tesco Express and Original Factory Shop have each taken at least 20 of the vacant properties.
Mathew Hopkinson, Director of the Local Data Company, commented: “It is encouraging to see 87 per cent of the old Woolworths shops now occupied.
“It reflects the fact that Woolworths was once the anchor store in many centres and that the current market has enabled greater opportunity for retailers to relocate to more prime locations due to high shop vacancy rates.
“The significant rise in the number of demolished properties is noteworthy and may be connected to empty rates relief being abolished and the state of the market in these tertiary locations with little or no retail demand.”
The number of former Woolworths store which have been demolished has risen from 1.3 per cent in the last year to 8.4 per cent, accounting in part for the significant drop in vacancies, but many stores do still stand unchanged and unused.
Northern Ireland has by far the highest number of these empty properties, 38 per cent of the total, followed by the North East of England which accounts for 26 per cent of the still vacant units.