Empty Shops on the High Street

Posted by Sharon Yewen in Credit Crunch on 23 November 2012 - Sharon is Financial Controller at checkmyfile.

It wasn’t long ago that we would walk through town surrounded by busy shops on both sides of the street. Compare this to recent months when it is becoming a common sight to see closing down sale signs, empty and boarded up shops instead.

It seems that since Woolworths closed back at the start of 2009 there has been a continuous stream of retail outlets following suit and we are noticing that almost weekly more shops are disappearing from the high street.

A recent survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reveals that on average more than one in ten shops is empty. The vacancy rate of 11.3% is the worst since the survey began in July 2011. In Northern Ireland the figure is much worse at 20%, closely followed by Wales and North Yorkshire where the vacancy rate is 15%.

These figures are supported by The Office of National Statistics who last week reported that retail sales were down 0.8% in October.

The Director General of the BRC, Stephen Robertson, says that these new figures set “alarm bells ringing” and that “many retailers are battling stagnating sales and rising costs, and next year’s threatened business rates increase can only make matters worse.”

Many also point to internet shopping as a key driver behind the demise of the high street. There are those of us, particularly the older generation, who like going into the shop and browsing through the actual goods before we buy. We may wonder, if the big retail chains go under, whether things will go full circle and we will see the smaller local outlets popping up again.

Some of the retailers who have been hit by the recession in the last year are: JJB, Clintons, Game, Peacocks, Past Times, Blacks Leisure, D2, Hawkins Bazaar, Focus DIY, Carpet Right, HMV, Thornton’s, Habitat and most recently Comet.

Sharon Yewen is Financial Controller at Checkmyfile. She is an FCA and has a degree in accountancy from the University of Exeter. You can contact Sharon at sharon.yewen@checkmyfile.com

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