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Shop vacancies not just about slowdown

The economic slowdown has compounded the problems faced by some UK high streets but is not the only cause.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Shop vacancies not just about slowdown

The economic slowdown has compounded the problems faced by some UK high streets but is not the only cause.

Reacting to new figures from The Local Data Company, published today (Thursday) which show shop-vacancy rates have reduced in many areas but remain high in northern and midlands towns, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said many of the problems of town centres have more fundamental causes than simply the economic slowdown and recovery alone will not overcome them.

Towns in the North, where a higher proportion of the economy tends to be public sector, will also be particularly vulnerable to future cuts in public spending – full details of which will be revealed by the Government next month.

Town centres can have a bright future but they need to be actively planned, managed and nurtured.

Stephen Robertson British Retail Consortium Director General said: "It's good to see closure rates now slowing in some towns, but they remain stubbornly high in the North and Midlands.

"Many of the problems of town centres have more fundamental causes than simply the economic slowdown and they will not disappear just because recovery is underway.

"High street shops are often battling big bills for business rates and rents, parking and access difficulties, as well as failure to manage and invest in the area.

"High streets are the heart of local communities and economies – providing jobs and essential services. Their future success cannot be left to chance. Town centres need to be actively managed by local authorities with their retailers, other businesses and residents. These figures show this need is even more pressing in towns outside South East England.

"Retailers make a significant contribution to improving their local trading environments, for example, through investments of time and resources in the work of local partnerships such as Business Improvement Districts. Central and local government must do the same. Our 21st Century High Street report provides the template for what is needed."

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