North-South divide over empty shops

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Local Data Company report shows widening gap in vacancies by region.

The Local Data Company’s latest Shop Vacancy report ‘A gathering storm?’ has revealed a slowdown in the increase of shop vacancies across Britain in the first half of 2010, yet regional differences are becoming increasingly apparent.

Town centre vacancy rates in Great Britain rose from just over 12 percent at the end of 2009, to 13 percent at the end of June 2010. The highest number of vacancies occurred in the large northern and midland cities, with only three southern centres (Watford, Reading and Bristol) making the top 25.

Blackpool was at the top of the ‘large sized centres’ list with a vacancy rate of almost a third. Bradford, Wolverhampton, Nottingham and Doncaster were also in the top five.

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In the ‘medium sized centres’ list, Altrincham was top with just over 30 percent vacancies, with Margate, Dewsbury and Stockton-on-Tees following closely behind.

The survey showed that the big centres in London and the South East, in particular, were holding up well, while further north vacancy rates were much higher, despite a slowdown in the overall increase in vacancy rates. The statistics appear to indicate this is due cities and towns in the south of England recovering at a much more rapid rate than those in the north.

The Local Data Company business development director Matthew Hopkinson said: “Our latest report shows the reality of a slowed but still rising increase in shop vacancy rates across the country. Whilst some centres, particularly Central London and the South East are showing stabilisation or improvement, others in the provinces are not.

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. In light of these new and fast growing ‘off the high street’ channels, will we ever need these vacant shops again? For those that survive, service, quality of offer and price need to be their values in order to ensure they can thrive.”

 

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