The number of shop vacancies stabilised during the first half of 2011, but the gap between the best and worst-performing towns is widening.
So finds the latest Shop Vacancy report from the British Property Federation and Local Data Company, which reviews empty-shop figures in over 1,000 retail centres. The good news is that the increase in vacancy rates – threefold since 2007 – has stopped. However, in the worst centres one in three shops is vacant, with 14.5% overall standing empty.
The report identifies a sharp north-south divide. All the southern regions see an average vacancy at or below 11%, which rises to the worst figure of 17% in the north west.
The top 10 worst-performing large centres are in the north and West Midlands while seven out of the top 10 best large centres are in the south.
Of the medium-sized centres the best top 10 are all in London and the south while eight out of the 10 worst are in the north, and looking at the smaller centres the best performers are again mainly in London and the south east – although the southern centres Leigh Park in Hampshire,Margate and Wandsworth top the table.
Looking at performance by size of centre, the survey says the large centres (400-plus shops) see vacancy of nearly 17% at the half year.
Medium centres (200 to 399 shops) fare slightly better with an average of just over 14%, while small centres (50 to199 shops) do better still at just over 12%.
Number one in the top 10 list of large centres with the most vacancies is Stockport, where 27.7% of stores are empty; in tenth position is Birmingham, with 23.8%.
Conversely, the large centre with the least vacancies is Bromley, with 9%, while Exeter, with 11.1%, is in tenth position.
Dudley has the dubious privilege of being the medium-size centre with most vacancies, at 29.4%, while number 10 on that list is Wigan, at 24%.
The top 10 list of medium centres with the least vacancies shows that Banstead in Surrey has the least, 4.8%, rising to Falmouth in tenth place, with 6.6%.
Finally, Leigh Park in Hampshire is the worst of the 10 small centres, with 36.4% vacancy, while Bootle, with 24.4% is tenth on the list.
The small centre with the lowest number of vacancies is Stanmore in Middlesex, with just 0.4%, while Beaconsfield comes in at number 10 on that list, with 2.3%.
The report also concludes that prime properties are taking market share away from other locations. It says that retailers are looking to close older and poorer performing outlets where possible, and relocate into new stores in the bigger and better centres, streets and warehouses to bolster diminishing profits.
The more they come under pressure, it says, the greater will be the need to rationalise portfolios of stores into the best-performing locations, which should continue to benefit the larger companies with prime portfolios at the expense of high streets and secondary centres elsewhere.