That means of ocurse that only three out of ten ex-Woolies stores are now occupied, and most of those have been snapped up by cheap and not very cheerful discounters.
This is a development which may have dire long term results for the health of the UK high street, according to a piece of research commissioned for The Times. ‘The demise of Woolworths has accelerated the degradation of the high street, as discount stores and pound shops take the place of mainstream retailers’ the paper claims.
The study shows that Iceland, the discount frozen food retailer, has taken about 50 stores, with Bargain Madness, 99p Stores, Heron Frozen Foods, Poundland, Home Bargains and Carpet Right all taking at least ten stores each. All these stores were bought direct from the administrator, suggesting that these businesses were prepared to pay substantial premiums to buy well-located large town centre stores.
The research highlights the dire conditions in the retail and commercial property industries, and will heighten further fears that the shift to out-of-town shopping centres and the rise of internet shopping have left the high street in a state of terminal decline.
The absence of a Woolies has left an ugly hole in the high street of many medium-sized market towns. The newborn Wellworths in Dorchester which opened in March was one attempt to stop this rot in one town at least. The new store, masterminded by a former Woolworths employee, is claiming 100,000 customers in its first three months.
It’s a familiar North/South divide when it comes to the ex-Woolies places that have been snapped up. In Greater London, more than half have found new occupiers; however, in Scotland about 80 per cent of the 82 sites remain unoccupied, while 90 per cent of sites in the North East of England still lie empty.
Although given the choice between a Bargain Madness and a boarded up shop front we can’t help wondering which is really worse…
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