The Local Data Company released their quarterly review of High Street Retail Performance in the UK today. The report shows a rise in vacancy rates to 14.6%. This is the equivalent of 1 in 7 shops currently vacant – approx 50,000 stores closed.
Worst performing areas are Kensal Town – London, West End – Morecambe, Dudley, Fratton & Dartford.
The occupancy rate is at its highest level on record, which is bad news for the struggling high street. This is only part of the picture however. Store vacancy rates are an indicator of town centre performance, although a High Street full of charity shops, pawnbrokers and betting shops is not a sign of success either.
So what can be done to stem the tide? The recent Portas report highlighted steps to protect the High Street and hundreds of towns across the country have submitted their bids to become one of the 10-12 pilots the government plans to support with a share of £1m. Is this enough?
My concern is that a carrot of government funding can result in paralysis. Hundreds of fledging town centres are currently sat on their hands – waiting to see if Mary Portas gives them a hand out. This is not the answer. There is action we can take today, that can start the process of improving the presentation of retailers in a town, changing consumers’ behaviour, attracting the right mix of retail to stop shoppers leaking to neighbouring towns or out of town retail parks.
We are working on a number of projects to proactively change the retail performance of the high street. A tiny investment of a few thousand pounds by local authorities, BIDs or town centre partnerships can have a dramatic impact. Here is an example of what we have done for this.
1. Town Review – Looking at the retail mix, creating a plan of what you have by category. Ranking or rating the stores across three categories “Beacons, In Need of Help or Blots on the Landscape”. From this plan we can look at where the help is required.
2. Retailer Up-skilling – whether through 121 work or workshops – updating and up-skilling retailers, retail staff and business owners – is an essential part of the process. Workshops for business owners followed by workshops for their staff can have a significant impact on a stores ability to attract, convert and retain customers through tough times. Core skills like visibility and window displays are also covered – improving the overall appearance of the town/city.
3. Identifying and addressing leakages. Why do people get in the car for all their furniture or fashion needs. Is there a shortage of relevant shops – or a perception issue? What activity could start to change this. How can local residents be engaged with retailers?
These are questions we ask and solve on a daily basis. It is finding the problem at its root – and treating it, that is going to move the vacancy rate figure in the right direction.
For more information or a free consultation, please contact Corin Birchall at kerching Retail.
Portas High Street Innovation Fund
If your town or city has been awarded £100,000 to address vacant stores, we can help you. We have solutions for every budget to address vacancy rates at their root.
For a no-obligation discussion about ideas to add to your own, please call or email.
Tel: 01455 203 206