Britain’s high streets are in crisis – a record 14.5% of shops in town centres were vacant at the end of 2010. Not only do we have to put up with cloned streets, we’re in danger of our towns ‘coming like a ghost town’.
A new report by the Local Data Company has found that vacant shops in UK’s town centres have risen 2009’s 12% to 14.5% by the end of 2010.
Perhaps that’s not the biggest jump, but not only is it a record, it’s tragic compared to 2008’s slender 5% figure.
The North-South divide
And it gets worse the further north you go, with an average of 16.5% vacancy in northern and midland regions (12.3% of town centre shops are empty in the South). But there’s one town that’s bucking this north-south divide – almost four in ten of Morgate’s shops are boarded up in Kent.
Matthew Hopkinson of the Local Data Company commented on their findings:
‘The sad reality is that the number of vacant shops are increasing with certain areas of the country severely impacted and unlikely to recover.’
Well that’s incredibly depressing. And even if our towns do recover when these dire financial times eventually improve, it’s likely that empty shop floors will be replaced by supermarkets, betting shops, fast food chains and banks.
Who or what’s to blame?
The simple fact is that we’re just not visiting local shops as much as we used to, mainly due to bigger chains’ cheaper prices and the advance of online retailers. Plus, with the current financial climate, those shops that once made our streets unique are forced to close down, replaced by McDonald’s, Starbucks and Tesco.
However, Which? Conversation commenter John doesn’t think this is a new problem:
‘I don’t think consumers can be “blamed” for deserting their local shops, although there undoubtedly is a cause and effect, but it is an evolutionary process that has been going on for centuries.’
Have you seen a transformation of your local high street, with more and more shops closing down? Are we to blame or should the finger instead be pointed at the recession, determined chains and online retailers?