Changing the High Street

empty_shop07:28 Thursday 3rd September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: There’s further signs of improvement in the health of the UK high streets. New figures show another small year-on-year fall in the overall number of empty shops, but there’s been a sharp increase in the number of shops lying empty for more than three years. These figures come from the Local Data Company. The Director there is Matthew Hopkinson.
MATTHEW HOPKINSON: Having been empty for three years and with a balance between online and shopping in store, we know that they’re no longer required. So now’s the time that the Government and local authorities and landlords need to make a decision and change them, either back into workplaces, or into residential, or indeed knock them down.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Nationally nearly 10,000 shops have been unoccupied since 2012. Dr Tim Denison is Director of Retail Intelligence at IPSOS Retail Performance. He says the problem is oversupply. In other words there’s more units available than demand requires.

TIM DENISON: All of primary shopping space in this country is being used. It’s the secondary and tertiary spaces that were really developed and mushroomed after the Second World War, where we became the nation of shopkeepers, and everybody went into retail.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So the vacancy rate in town centres has come down slightly. It stands just under 12%. These shoppers say in general they’re not that impressed with the state of the high street.
SHOPPER ONE: Too many charity shops, secondhand shops. Too many empty shops. Nothing to pull you in.
SHOPPER TWO: I don’t have time to use the high street. And I don’t like shopping. It’s only because it’s my son’s birthday I’m actually coming out today.
SHOPPER THREE: I do use the internet a little bit, but I prefer to come and have a look at things, try things on.
SHOPPER FOUR: It’s quite sad really I think. It does look quite sad. There doesn’t seem to be that same hustle and bustle that there once was.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Showing the greatest improvement then is the north east of England. The town of Burslam in the West Midlands has the highest vacancy rate at 34%.