Town Centres Suffer as Spending Slows

Six English towns have been highlighted as having the highest number of empty shops in Great Britain, with each seeing nearly a third of stores vacant, research has found. 

A report by retail analysts Local Data Company (LDC) found that Dewsbury, Dudley, Hartlepool, Margate, Stockport and West Bromwich had the highest number of vacant retail units.

The town with most empty shops was Dudley, which had a vacancy rate of 29.4 per cent ― up 16 per cent on last year. Banstead in Surrey had the lowest rate, at just 4 per cent.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said the results revealed the “fragility” of the British high street amid the pressures it faced in the current climate.

“Oversupply is an issue in some locations,” he said. “Many town centres simply have too many shops in the wrong location and of the wrong size, with some premises too large for independent retailers and others too small to be of interest to bigger operators.”

British Retail Consortium spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said high rates of empty shops were largely caused by the “triple whammy” of falling disposable incomes, low consumer confidence and the rising costs of essentials like transport and food.

However, small retailers needed to get involved to support town centres, she added.

“Attractive streets, good parking, good security and an interesting mix of shops and facilities ― this is what draws shoppers in,” said Cordey. “If units are empty, other retailers must try to form partnerships and work with the council to make sure that things don’t get worse.”

Earlier this year, the Government announced it was backing a review headed by TV retail guru Mary Portas, aimed at halting the decline of town centres.


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