Rising vacancies put squeeze on high street

Rotherham, Morecambe and Margate have the highest percentage of empty shops in the country – and the number of vacancies nationwide continues to rise.

Rising vacancies put squeeze on high street

The Local Data Company, whose latest figures show that town centre vacancy rates rose from 12% at the end of 2009 to 14.5% at the end of last year, says the high street is now facing the greatest challenge for survival in its history.

The retail data research organisation believes that some high streets will never return to their pre-recession days.

The study, which investigated almost 800 towns, also points up a north-south divide which it describes as “large and growing”. Vacancies in northern and Midland regions are well above the national average at 16.5%, while in the south the figure is below, at 12.3%. Of the top 20 large retailing centres ranked by vacancy, two-thirds are in the north and a further 30% are in the Midlands.

In terms of shopping areas by size, in large towns average vacancy increased by 4.8% over the year, and by 4.5% in medium-size towns. In small centres the figure was just 3%.

The top 20 large centres (with 400-plus shops) ranked in order of vacancy rate are: Rotherham (28.2% vacancy); Walsall; Sheffield; Blackpool; Grimsby; Bradford, Birmingham; Doncaster; Kingston-upon-Hull; Wolverhampton; Nottingham; Stoke-on-Trent; Leeds; Bolton; Liverpool; Bristol; Derby; Sunderland; Middlesborough; Watford; and Leicester (20.2% vacancy).

The top 20 medium-size centres (200 to 399 shops) are: Morecambe (30% vacancy); Altrincham; Newport, Monmouthshire; Stockton-on-Tees; Dewsbury; Dunstable; Blackburn; Harlow; West Bromwich; Paisley; Stockport; Warrington; Hartlepool; Camberley; Wigan; Accrington; Gloucester; South Shields; Brixton; and Dover (21.6% vacancy).

The top 20 small centres (50 to 199 shops) are: Margate (37.4% vacancy); Leigh Park; Lee Green; Runcorn; St Austell; Eccles; North Cheam; Woolston; Denton; Droylsden; Fratton; Billingham; Forest Hill; Ashley Down; Stretford; Lower Edmonton; Havant; Middleton; Wandsworth; and Swinton (21.8% vacancy).

Local Data Company director Matthew Hokinson said: “The sad reality is that the number of vacant shops are increasing, with certain areas of the country severely impacted and unlikely to recover. These high streets will never revert back to what they once were and so the composition of our town centres needs to change to reflect modern shopping needs.”

Click here for the full report.

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