One in Eight Town Centre Shops Empty

The number of empty retail premises in UK town centres increased to 13% over the past year, research has found.

A study of 700 towns and cities, by market research firm Local Data Company (LDC), found that 13% of shops were vacant at the end of June 2010 – one in eight – compared to 12% for the same period in 2009.

“The impact of the VAT increase, public-sector cuts and fierce competition within the multi-channel retail environment, make it increasingly hard for shops on our high streets,”

said LDC business development director, Matthew Hopkinson.

“In light of these new and fast-growing ‘off the high street’ channels, will we ever need these vacant shops again?”

Forum of Private Business spokesman, Phil McCabe, said that smaller retailers were closing or moving out of town centres due to rising rents, high business rates, competition from bigger stores and increasingly expensive and restrictive city centre parking imposed by councils to make money.

“It’s very difficult for small retailers to survive in town centres, and that is why there are more and more empty premises. However, it isn’t practical for retailers to be dotted about outside the centre of a town, as it would seriously impact on footfall.”

“Businesses also face competition from the online marketplace, and some are following suit and focusing more on their online sales. But retailers should also have the option of having an affordable physical presence on the high street, as many customers still prefer visiting shops to buying online and it helps to boost the local economy.”

British Property Federation chief executive, Liz Peace, said that regional towns needed more Government support.

“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 businesses hiring new staff, to be implemented quickly.”

The LDC survey also highlighted that there is now a North/South divide on shop closures – with almost a third of retail premises empty in Blackpool and a quarter in Bradford, compared with just 11% in Central London.

business property, empty shops

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