Sixty per cent of former BHS stores still empty
The figures from The Local Data Company reveal that 96 stores remain unoccupied. When the 35 stores that have deals or planning permission pending are excluded, this bring the number of empty stores up to 82%.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at LDC, said: "The reoccupation levels of old BHS stores are not surprising one year on. Firstly, many of these stores are large stores over multiple floors and after being occupied for many years, some have legacy issues such as asbestos to deal with. With large stores over multiple floors come large rents and rates bills along with a format that is not conducive to modern retailing without considerable cost to reconfigure the space."
Of the 23 stores that have been reoccupied, seven are now home to fashion shops, six to discount stores and three to DIY stores.
Primark currently occupies four former BHS stores while The Range has taken over three. Other retailers setting up shop in empty BHS stores include Next, B&M Bargains, Pep&Co, Morley’s, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, TJ Hughes, Poundworld Extra, Buyology, Home Bargains and Dunelm.
Towns outside of London that have seen their old BHS re-occupied include Hartlepool, Woking, Torquay, Solihull, Knaresborough, Bexleyheath, Basingstoke, St. Helens, Worthing, Kingston Upon Thames, Colchester, Harrow, Llandudno, Sunderland, Chesterfield, Redditch and Knaresborough.
Some of the stores are seeing applications for a change of use. This includes the Princes Street store in Edinburgh being converted into hotel.
The stores that have been reoccupied show significant regional variances with 47% of units taken up in Greater London compared to none in Scotland.
Hopkinson added: "Many of the stores are in locations where the pitch has moved to another part of the town, to a shopping centre or in some cases a dominant retail park. The breadth of vacancy rates also illustrates the challenges that many of these towns face in seeking to occupy their shops.
"The best of the old BHS stores have been taken by the value retailers who can operate profitably out of large stores in high footfall towns. Many of the others are unlikely to be reoccupied as shops and therefore alternative uses must be sought. Some currently are in the form of cinemas, gyms, hotels, offices – anything but a traditional shop!"
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