Nearly one in seven shops across Britain is standing empty, a record proportion, according to new figures.
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The Local Data Company says its monthly barometer of shop vacancies rose in February to 14.6 percent, reaching its highest level since the company began its index in 2008.
“It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond this month to the Portas Review, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country,” said LDC director Matthew Hopkinson.
“The latest increase is not unexpected as post-Christmas occupancy levels drop and retailer failures continue with Game Group, with 600 shops, the latest.”
Retail campaigner Mary Portas, an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, published a review in December on how to revive town centres.
Among 28 recommendations, she called for a “town team” for each high street and the establishment of “super business improvement districts”.
LDC’s figures show that town centre vacancy rates in Britain stabilized at 14.3 percent during the second half of 2011 but then rose to 14.5 percent in January 2012 before showing a further increase last month.
The company plans to suggest ways the government can tackle this through a “town tool kit” providing up-to-date information about shop occupancy, vacancies, footfall and consumer needs.
“The fact that none of these are aligned or indeed understood in most towns means that the chances of planning for success are significantly reduced.”, Hopkinson said.
LDC’s survey covers over 2,700 towns and cities, retail parks and shopping centres. The shop vacancy index is based on the shop vacancy rates of the top 650 town centres.
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