Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Empty shops make up 14.5% of town centres

In this article from Property Weekly, property experts give their opinions of the changes faced by high streets and retailers across the country.

Matthew Hopkins, director of The Local Data Company, points to the problem that many smaller retail units in local shopping areas are 'not fit for the purpose of modern retailing'. Professor Barrry Gilbertson also recognises the desire of big brand retailers for larger retail units that can compete with the large stock holdings of their online competitors. This shift towards retail parks and shopping centres, and away from high streets, has left 'a lot of vacant shops which will never be replaced'.

However, there is some hope for local shopping areas, as Mike Riley notes that many independent retailers have made use of the lower rents in these areas, and their potential is demonstrated by 'the likes of the Co-op, Tescos, Sainsbury's and Waitrose' wanting to open branches in these areas. But more supermarkets on the high street hardly seems like a long-term solution: the lack of variety and impossible competition these chains impose upon independent retailers caused the decline of local shopping in the first place.

Both Hopkins and Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, highlight the need of something other than big brand domination. The success of these local areas depends upon communities, businesses and councilors working together to create 'something special', and to 'be creative in looking for new roles and uses for empty shops'.

Let's hope that messages like these, coming from within the commercial property sector, will start to have a positive impact and enable many more project such as the CAA to take place.

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