One in five shops on the high street stand empty


But jewellers have been more resilient than most, says BJA chief.

The number of vacant shops across Britain’s high streets remains at such a critical level that the centre of some towns may spiral into an irreversible decline, retail analysts have warned.

A report published on Thursday by The Local Data Company, says that in the worst affected towns and cities, almost one-in-four shops are closed.

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The LDC survey of 700 town centres from July to December 2009 found that overall shop vacancy has nearly doubled in England and Wales since the end of 2008, although there has been a small decrease in vacancies in the past six months.

Kent, the Midlands and the north-east has an average of one in five shops empty. The north has the highest vacancy rates. In the south and east and London, vacancy rates rose by a third, but is lower than the rest of the country at 9 per cent.

The Kent seaside town of Margate is the worst hit in the country with 27.2 percent of shops empty. Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Bradford all have one quarter of shops vacant.

Jewellers have fared better than some on the high street, according to Geoff Field, Chief Executive of The British Jewellers’ Association, which represents the supplier end of the jewellery business. “The industry has not been having the best of times,” he conceded, “but they have also proved to be resilient and are coping with the recession.”

One problem highlighted by Field is the lack of succession planning among small jewellers. “It is a sector that is dominated by small independent businesses and when people retire, they are sometimes unable to sell their companies so shops close,” he explained.

How is your high street coping? Start the debate by leaving a comment below.


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