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Town centre shop vacancy rates reveal North/South divide

New figures on town centre shop vacancy rates in the UK have revealed a clear North/South divide, with 22 of the 25 the best performing centres with the least vacant shops being located south of the ‘Watford Gap’.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Town centre shop vacancy rates reveal North/South divide

Figures released by the Local Data Company, which analyses over 1,900 town centres, retail parks and shopping centres, show that of the top 25 worst centres for vacant shops, 21 were in the North, Midlands or Wales. 

The North West was found to be the worst performing region with the vacancy rate standing at 20.1% compared to only 9.4% in London.

The figures show that shop vacancy rates in the first of half of 2013 remained stable at 14.1%. However, the number of empty shops in the top 650 town centres was 22,339, which is the equivalent of 23 Sheffield city centres lying empty.

Small towns with less than 200 shops were found to be in the healthiest state with a vacancy rate of 9.2%. Retail parks followed with a vacancy rate of 9.6%, although the LDC found that these locations had experienced the most significant decline in the last six months with a rise of 0.8%. In shopping centres, the picture was much worse with the average number of empty shops standing at 16.1% which was an all time high from 15.6% in 2012.

The figures also show that although 1 in 7 shops continue to remain empty, a further 403 shop units were added to the stock in the first half of 2013 with much of the growth fuelled by leisure uses.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “This report clearly shows that whilst the rise of empty shops has stalled it still remains stubbornly high for many towns up and down the country.

“Both the Portas and Grimsey high street reviews highlight the impact that vacant shops are having on communities up and down the country and call for Government to take action in a wide number of areas.

“What is common to all is that we have too many shops in this country and many are not fit for a role within the new omni-channel/digital environment. As the LDC data shows this problem is felt more acutely north of the Watford Gap where economic challenges are greater than in the South along with the greatest disparity in business occupation costs seen between rental decline and business rate increases.”

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