// UK high street data from LDC shows a slow revival of high streets driven by independent businesses moving into vacant sites
// Clothing stores and charity retailers have been hardest hit while fast-food shops and grocery stores took advantage of cheaper rents to launch
Nearly 90% of former Debenhams stores are still empty, almost a year after the department store retailer closed its doors for the final time.
The empty stores are among approximately 8,000 stores left empty last year, according to a report by the high street analysts Local Data Company (LDC), as Covid lockdowns accelerated the shift towards online and hammered city centres.
Although, that number was down from 11,319 net closures in 2020, as fewer businesses fell into administration, while over 43,000 new businesses opened their doors, an increase of more than 10%.
- Ted Baker signs franchise agreement to open 30 new stores
- John Lewis boss: No more store closures despite soaring online sales
- BuzzFeed is opening airport convenience stores this spring
According to the Guardian, fast-food shops, barbers, grocery stores, cafes and beauty salons have been the fastest-growing sectors.
There was also a significant improvement in the leisure industry, with a net 52 outlets closing compared with 2,640 a year earlier, as restrictions on dining out eased and takeaway businesses continued to boom.
Clothing stores, banks, charity shops and pubs have been hit the hardest.
LDC commercial director Lucy Stainton said that department stores were a particular problem, with only 12% of recently vacated sites now reoccupied. Alongside Debenhams, over a fifth of former BHS outlets remained empty five years after the department store collapsed as a result of the costs of fitting out and maintaining such large sites.
Stainton said landlords and councils should be thinking beyond retail to fill the space as there was a “knock-on impact” on the attractiveness of a town or shopping centre when key stores remained empty.
Projects under way include the transformation of the former Debenhams in Bury St Edmunds’ Arc Shopping Centre which could be transformed into an Everyman cinema as well as the former Debenhams store in Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre which is expected to be transformed into offices and a rooftop garden.