Shop vacancies show ‘cautious optimism’
Beaconsfield has a low level of empty units
BEACONSFIELD shop vacancy rates are among the lowest in Britain, according to research from the Local Data Company (LDC).
The town had a retail and leisure premises vacancy rate of 1.9% at the end of the first half of 2015, one of the lowest rates in Britain and down from 2.9% a year before.
Across the South East, 10.7% of premises are standing empty, down from 10.9% at the end of 2014.
In the first half of 2015 the GB retail and leisure vacancy rate reduced to 11.7% from 11.9% in the second half of 2014.
The number of vacant premises in the top 650 town centres numbered 25,160, a reduction of 329 during the first half of 2015. Overall across all locations tracked by LDC there were 49,591 vacant premises a drop of 701.
From January this year the number of vacant units in town centres that have been unoccupied for more than three years has risen by 24.4% to total 9,650 units.
Shopping centres continue to have the highest overall vacancy rate at 14.8% – down 0.4 percentage points since the end of 2014 – followed by town centres at 11.7%, down 0.2%, and retail parks at 6.6%, down 1.4%.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “Cautious optimism is exactly what the latest vacancy rates data from LDC reveals from the first half of 2015. The good news of reducing vacancy rates has run in parallel to better economic performance within the UK, and growing retail sales and consumer confidence. The improving vacancy rates across the country has been seen in all location types with improvements of high street units, shopping centres and retail parks.
“The devil is however in the detail when one looks at more defined geographies. For example, whilst at a GB level there has been slight improvement but at a country level Wales has seen a marginal increase in its vacancy rate alongside the East of England and the North West. All other areas have seen improvements and in the case of the North East by as much as -0.5 percentage points.
“At a town centre level there is considerable variance between the best and the worst, as one should expect with the gap being over 25% when one looks nationally. The towns with the highest vacancy rates all have around one in four or one in five shops vacant which is a blight for many towns that should not be lost when considering the overall positive trend nationally.
“Locations such as Newport in South Wales, Stoke on Trent in the West Midlands and Stockport in the North West have had high shop vacancy rates since 20011/12 and in the case of all three are continuing to rise. Conversely previous high shop vacancy black spots such as Margate, Nottingham and Dudley have shown a marked reduction in their vacancy rates from one in three units lying empty in 2011 to less than one in five now. This is progress and as a result of proactive management and should be applauded.
“The persistence of vacancy is a major indicator of structural decline. As LDC has been tracking vacancy rates since the start of the recession in 2008/9 it is one of the best indicators of real change and performance in our town centres, retail parks and shopping centres. The persistent vacancy analysis reveals two significant facts. Firstly, of all the town centre vacant units just under a third have been vacant for more than three years. This equates to nearly 10,000 empty shops, which is the equivalent size of over six Liverpool city centres. Secondly, if units are not let within a year then there is a general trend that they will remain unoccupied and this is particularly true for secondary retail parks and small (less than 200 units) high streets. The conclusion from this can only be over supply or the wrong size of space in the wrong location.
“2015 and beyond could start to see further improvements but this is more likely in fewer centres than across all locations. Caution has to be the watchword both in terms of consumer confidence, the impact of any interest rate rise, the impact of currency fluctuations especially on supply chains and finally the explosive growth of certain business types in a fiercely competitive market which has led to talks of a bubble. Only time will tell.”