Leisure firms and not retailers take up empty retail spaces

Empty retail spaces in the UK are being filled by cafes, restaurants and betting shops instead of retailers, a report by the Local Data Company (LDC) has found.

The report reveals that the high street is picking up with the overall store vacancy rate falling from 14.2% to 14.1% as of February.

High street vacancies in large centres fell to 13.5% from 16.2% last year. While vacancies in medium centres was down to 11.9% from 15%, small centres saw vacancies fall from 10.6% to 9.2%.

The LDC attributed these improvements to the increase in empty spaces in retail parks which were taken up by cafes and restaurants.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said of the report: “Restaurants, bars, cafes and even betting shops have come to the rescue as the growth of leisure takes off in our town centres.

“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.”

Of the large centres, Blackburn had the highest vacancy rate of 26.9% and Cambridge recorded the lowest proportion of empty shops at 7%.

Nationally, Wales had the highest national vacancy rate at an average of 17.5% with Scotland at 14.9% and England at 14.0%.

Last week ex-Iceland boss Bill Grimsey, who released a report on the high street, said that retail guru Mary Portas’ plans are a foolish stunt and that 20,000 shops may close.

 

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