Shop vacancy rate lowest for four years, research suggests

A man carrying bags of shopping The rate of town centre shop vacancies is at its lowest for four years

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There has been a marked improvement in the number of empty shops on the UK's High Streets, research suggests.

The Local Data Company, which monitors more than 2,000 town and shopping centres and retail parks, said average vacancy rates were below 14% for the first time in four years.

But its report also reveals a growing North-South divide, with some High Streets falling into further decline.

However, there are still more than 50,000 empty shops in town centres.

At its peak in 2012, vacancy rates were 14.6%, compared with 13.9% in December.

Some of the vacancies were filled by food and leisure businesses.


The report, though, also shows big regional variations.

Vacancy rates in the North West, North East and East of England have all increased in the past 12 months.

The North West is the worst hit with more than 17% of shops empty - more than double the percentage in London.

The data also shows the increasing impact of large shopping centres and retail parks and their dominance of the retail landscape.

Analysis of the 12 biggest shopping centres found most of the surrounding weaker towns and High Streets continue to decline, raising questions over their future direction and viability.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Shop vacancy rate lowest for four years, research suggests
    Four part statistical answer possibilities:

    1. More charity shops opened?
    2. Lots more betting shops opened?
    3. Offices turned into apartments?
    4. Shops pulled down?

    Can one argue with skewed facts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Why the nostalgia about high streets ? They have gone the way of horse-drawn cabs and open sewers along urban streets; who would want them to return ?
    Convert buildings on one side of each street to residential use and bulldoze the other side for residents and their visitors parking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Warrington a northern the top 10 in the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    I know! Turn the empty shops into food banks and Bedroom TAX collection offices and homeless shelters?

    Seems to be the areas best open for business under this Government!

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    My local high street is full of coffee shops and cafes now, even they are now starting to undercut each other to try and keep trading.
    High rates and rents killed most independent retailers, I've seen some charity shops shut for good lately.
    Unless shops are able to compete price wise with online sellers and the high street can offer something more than just overpriced coffee then they r doomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    The demise of High street shopping is people go up to the town centre, look at the prices in the shops.They use their computer cell phones to go on line, and find it is cheaper. So instead buy it on line. This is the reason shops are closing. To stop the demise of our towns centres, The government should put a special Tax on internet bought goods, like charging 23% Vat

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Despite the fact that this year I did quite a bit of shopping online,I do still enjoy going into town and having lunch out.I like to see what I'm buying most of the time so I will continue to use my High Street. However I now take the bus or get my husband to drop me off and pick me up rather than pay to park.There's still a lot of life left in the old High Street but Councils have ruined so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    We need to remember that this recession went on a much lower trajectory than was necessary. It was not necessary for this government to cut the previous government's investment projects. They didn't have to choke off the recovery.
    Our economy is now rising to the level it would have been if this government hadn't taken us so deep. This includes empty retail premises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    There's another issue as well: councils sanctioning ugly, soulless retail barn developments on former industrial land. My town has 3 large stores of 1970s vintage standing empty - formerly Woolworths, Littlewoods and T J Hughes - and M&S and Boots have deserted their town centre sites for these cheap 'n' nasty tin sheds further out. Eyesores wherever you look.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    All these posts blaming councils and others is just a nice excuse to make people feel better. Whilst charity shops may get some relief, bookies, pound shops, coffee shops all afford the rent, rates etc.

    The reality is we are all to blame for the high street decline e.g. though on-line shopping. Also many high streets are just not made for the age of the car so they ration it thorough charges

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    I looked at the lowest rated and their comments just show they are on some other blinkered rose tinted planet.

    I live in a small market town which isn't actually a clone town it doesn't do anything decent. But the Wychavon District Council and their jobs worthy traffic wardens are working us hard to stay out if it. I travel to the nearby city for free parking and under one roof shopping in peace

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Its a combination of problems. Rents are too high, how many of us now shop online, how many of us use supermarkets for everything and how many of us use out of town shopping centres.
    We are all to blame in some small way to the disappearing High St. Also, lets be honest, how many of us actually walk to buy our food instead of getting in the car for that short journey? Nearly all of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    We have a Duty free shop, a plant shop, a casino, a immigrant advice center, brothel, pickpockets, pimps and beggars, who needs the High St

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    The high street is being killed by local government and tax dodges.

    Buying a book in our local high street:
    Book = £5.00 (inc. roughly £1.00 of business rates)
    Parking = £5.00 (council controlled parking)
    Petrol = £5.00 (£3.00 is VAT and other tax)

    Book = £3.50 (as all taxes are legally avoided)

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Where is the commecial street of my town, can not see it

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    Look no further than the local authorities for the culprit for high street decline. Inflated business rates, car parking ridiculously expensive, and fat council pay and pensions. They are the problem. The solution is the risk taking attitude of retailers who now see opportunities due to an upturn in the economy. But beware, their success will trigger increases in business rates and parking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    "There has been a marked improvement in the number of empty shops on the UK's High Streets, research suggests."


    Practically none of the shops in my town centre are selling what I want.

    I don't want to pay for the priviledge of parking there to buy nothing.

    I don't want to bet - drink coffee - visit a charity shop or a mobile phone shop or a £ shop - town centres are dying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Just what we need to boost the economy. More shops selling imported goods from abroad. Gordon Brown tried to build an economy based on shopping and look what happened to him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Lot of moaning about chains that have gone, they have gone because they sold the wrong things or they charged too much and people stopped using them. Less empty shops is a good news story, but of course some people can't accept that. Too many charity shops, yes, too many bookies, yes, too many poundshops probably. But also new first time business's. Small maybe but a career or job for someone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    341. Charity shops are not "Real" charity shops now, Some only want designer clothes, I have been told that anything else is cut with scissors, assume dumped. I now take mine to "cash for clothes & books who pay per kg, I then give the money to charity I want to support. Some now buy in stock /pay staff who have to have contract RSPCA I believe is one. In which case they should pay business rates


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