Recession hits retail: more than one in 10 shops lie empty

Commercial landlords could be some of the worst-hit victims of the recession, it seems: figures out today have revealed the average number of empty shops in a town has rocketed from 4% a year ago to almost 12% now.

The report, by the Local Data Company (LDC), found around 12,000 independent shops and almost 7,000 former branches of major chains have closed since January.

One of the most badly affected towns in the UK is Margate in Kent, where an estimated 25% of shops lie empty as a result of the recession. As a response – and to make the town look a bit nicer – the local council has commissioned a number of art projects to fill empty shop windows.

The study showed an increase in ‘churn’ – where a number of businesses open in a shop, only to close after a short period. The highest churn rates were seen in the North, in particular in Wakefield, where it was more than 700%, and Wolverhampton, where it was 387%.

But landlords and retailers needn’t despair just yet: last month’s retail sales monitor from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed signs of recovery, with retail sales rising 3.2% on a year-on-year basis.

The numbers are ‘way above expectations’, said a spokesperson from LDC. “[It] could set the scene for a stronger than expected second half of the year. However, this has to be balanced against continued rises in unemployment and therefore less spending power overall.”

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