High Street showing 'great resilience'


How some shops in Weston-super-mare have closed but been re-invented

About one in five High Street shops affected by the biggest retail collapses of the last five years is still vacant, new research suggests.

Accountancy firm Deloitte also found that the High Street was outperforming retail parks and shopping centres when it came to re-occupying empty shops.

Many big names, including HMV, Comet and Blockbuster, went under as the recession hit and online shopping grew.

But Deloitte said the High Street was "showing great resilience."

The firm analysed data from 27 major company administrations since 2009, many where it had an involvement in the process.

Then, using data from the Local Data Company, it traced the fate of nearly 5,900 shops.

Snapshot: Weston-Super-Mare


Weston-Super-Mare is a traditional seaside town that was hit hard by a wave of retail collapses.

Like many places, the loss of Woolworths, right in the heart of the high street, was a big shock. And plenty more shop closures followed.

It is by no means out of the woods, but it isn't all bad news either. Woolworths is now a Poundland, Blockbuster has turned into Iceland, and the building which was home to the department store chain TJ Hughes, has finally been sold for redevelopment, after standing empty for two years.

Retail is clearly still important for this town, but it also knows that it has to come up with good reasons for people to come into the centre.

The big, shiny Cribbs Causeway mall is just a short drive away up the M5, and lures in a lot of shoppers.

There's a new development taking shape, close to the seafront, where the focus will be on leisure, with a big new cinema and restaurants.

In the old days, retail would have led the way.

Not any more.

Nearly a third of these premises were never vacated.

Many retailers, of course, did not disappear from the High Street, although they did come out of administration with fewer shops.

More than 4,000 stores, though, were vacated in one form or another.

'Structural shift'

There are some big regional differences, with some areas faring better than others.

For instance, Greater London has a vacancy rate of 18%, compared with the north-west of England which has a vacancy rate of 32%.

But perhaps the most striking detail in this research is the evidence that the High Street has done better than other parts of retail.

Deloitte found that the average vacancy rate for the High Street is 20%, but it rises to 29% for shopping centres and 37% for retail parks.

The author of the report, Hugo Clarke, said the High Street had recovered much better than expected.

"The results of this research are surprising and seem to challenge a number of myths around the state of the High Street," he said.

"They would suggest that far from being dead, the High Street appears to be showing great resilience and a capacity for re-invention.

"It seems that a structural shift is taking place with the High Street emerging as an unexpected winner."

And Jon Copestake, a retail analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit, agrees that there is a change under way.

"Specialist stores that closed in the face of online competition or due to product obsolescence - such as Jessops and Blockbuster - are being replaced by major chains like Morrisons stepping up their convenience offering, or by discounters looking to tap into consumer austerity drives," he said.

'En route' shopping

So what kind of businesses have filled the gaps?

Deloitte found that discount and pound shops acquired one in five of the empty properties, with Poundland taking more than anyone else.

Convenience stores, including those run by supermarkets, have also expanded strongly, accounting for nearly 12% of the space, with close to three-quarters of them on High Streets.

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said the pattern suggested a big change in shopping habits was under way.

"Rather than taking shoppers away, the internet is pushing people back to shops with the growth of click and collect," he said.

"The evidence suggests that we may be entering a new era of 'en route' shopping, powered by mobile shopping and the demand for collection points strategically located at a point between where the consumer is travelling from and to."

In other words, the High Street these days is becoming more about convenience.

But things are far from rosy.

The Local Data Company believes there are still a total of 43,600 shops standing vacant. That is just under one in seven shops, on average.

Every town is different. But this research shows that, overall, things aren't quite as gloomy on the High Street as some people might think.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    The demise of the high street was inevitable with the advent of the internet. It has probably been the biggest single change to the way we live since the industrial revolution, which completely changed the way we work and live. Thousands upon thousands of people used to work at home, but that changed. Now we shop over the internet. It's only negative to those needing something to have a go at Govt

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    The changes our High Streets are going through are natural evolutionary changes and it would be wrong to try and interfere with that natural process.

    Some High Streets are dying out, others are booming. In other places shopping centres and retail parks have taken over. But that's no bad thing because the shops are adapting to peoples changing shopping habits. It's an unavoidable fact of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    As it happens I visited my local town centre today for the first time in two years for my bi-annual eye check, filthy pavements, drunks, yobs riding bikes all over the place, more chemist shops than ever, (whats going on with them?) nothing to make me return before my next test.
    Out of town and the net for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    It has been a real shame that the high streets have been allowed to be decimated over the years with out of town shopping malls etc taking over. I live near the Stratford Westfield shopping centre and much prefer to head into Central London where there is far more selection of stores. Shopping mall stores in comparison are pale imitations of the high street ones in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Imagine how much better (or believable) this would be if poor shopkeepers weren't saddled with punative business rates and shoppers with punative parking charges. Why anyone would want to be a shopkeeper is beyond me while we have councils constantly trying to run them out of business.


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