Let's be honest: 20% of recession-hit shops are still unoccupied

Some 80% of the units affected by administration have been snapped up - but it's mainly by pound stores, bargain chains and supermarkets.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 04 Apr 2014

Looks like small retailers aren't the only ones still smarting after the recession: there have been 27 high profile retail administrations since 2009 which has seen the demise of chains including Woolworths, Comet and T J Hughes.

However, only one in five of those units affected have remained empty, according to an analysis of 5,900 shops by Deloitte. Instead, discount outlets such as Poundland and convenience stores have quickly filled up the free space.

Poundland alone has taken 113 units, accounting for 25% of the total take up; 99p Stores has snapped up 77 stores and B&M Bargains has taken 60 spaces. Some may point out that although a shuttered store is never good, it does raise questions about the quality of shops on the high street and how many bargain stores a town needs.

Supermarkets have also been quick to boost their presence in town centres, with Iceland buying 75 and Morrisons taking over 52 stores from units left open by the closure of Blockbuster and Jessops.

Retail watchers have long bemoaned the dismal state of the British high street - pawnbrokers, charity shops and bookmakers are becoming a more familiar sight they say as traditional retailers are beset on all sides by slick new online rivals, rising business rates and declining footfall.

However, Deloitte claims that just 3% of sites have become charity shops post-administration and less than 0.01% have turned into coffee shops, pawnbrokers and betting shops (although an influx of discount chains isn’t necessarily any better...).

Surprisingly, cafes have spurned space released through administrations, with only 36 vacant units being converted into coffee shops and tea rooms. This goes against the trend for the general rise in cafes. There were 16,501 coffee shops in the UK by the end of 2013 – this is forecast to grow to 20,500 by 2018, figures by Allegra Strategies suggest.

The report also showed that the high street is in fact outstripping retail parks and shopping centres, which have vacancy rates of 37% and 29% respectively for space formerly occupied by major retailers who have gone bust.

Hugo Clark, director at Deloitte and author of the report, said:  ‘This research challenges a number of myths around the state of the high street. Far from being dead, the high street appears to be showing great resilience and a capacity for reinvention. It seems that a structural shift is taking place with the high street emerging as an unexpected winner.’

As long as you like pound shops, that is...

Economy Retail

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