Empty shops on the increase

The number of empty shops is still increasing albeit at a slower pace. The amount has risen from just over 12% at the end of last year to 13% (or nearly 1 in 7) at the end of June 2010.

However, it will come as no surprise that the situation is far worse in the North than the South. For example Altrincham, Blackpool and Dewsbury have around 30% of retail units currently empty.  Another telling fact is that of the 400 medium sized shopping centres studied,  73 showed signs of improvement however all but 1 (Grantham) of these were in the South.

What can be done about these empty High Streets and shopping centres?  I believe that the planning councils need to take a more flexible view of usages. Yes, it would be nice for the High Street  to have all the traditional A1 trading units but the reality is that the population visits Tescos for their groceries, meat, fish, fruit and veg. They visit the shopping centres  to buy their new outfits and the Retail Parks for their White Goods.

So, if the likes of Costa Coffee and Starbucks, Nandos and Pizza Express want to come into the High Street and can make it vibrant once more then surely it’s better to allow change of use than sitting like King Canute trying to turn back the tide of change.

Interestingly, the Scottish Council of Paisley has had the foresight to not only  agree to ‘discounters’ coming in but have actively welcomed them so that the town centre has become a hub of activity for bargain hunters. It might not be ‘pretty’ but it’s popular and they collect the full Business Rates!

Tony Heywood – Gilcrest Services Ltd
Retail Troubleshooter
Business Turnaround and Recovery

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