Town centres in Midlands and North West top shop vacancy rates, data reveals

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Town centres in the North West and Midlands dominate the league tables for the highest number of shop vacancies, according to the latest research by The Local Data Company’s (LDC).

Its new report, ‘More Clicks, Less Bricks’, provides insight and analysis on the health of town centres, shopping centres and retail parks across Great Britain. The analysis is based on vacant shop numbers and for the first time now includes vacant leisure premises as well. The report analysis is based on analysis of 278,915 retail and leisure premises that were physically surveyed in 2012 and sit within the 1,914 retail centres the report covers.

Key findings

  • The shop vacancy rate average at the GB level reduced from 14.3% to 14.2% (top 650 town centres)
  • Inclusion of retail (shop) and leisure vacant premises reduces the GB average to 14.0%
  • Wales (18%) is the worst performing country in terms of shop vacancy rate, followed by Scotland (15.5%) with England (13.9%) being the best performer
  • Wales (16.1%) remains the worst performing country when one includes retail (shop) and leisure vacant premises, followed by Scotland (13.0%) with the best performer being England (12.3%)
  • All regions with the exception of Yorkshire & The Humber, London and the East Midlands saw a slight rise in shop vacancy rates
  • Across the 1,914 retail centres in this report, 35,516 vacant units were identified
  • Nationally shopping centres have the highest vacancy rate average overall at 15.6%, followed by town centres (14.2%) and retail parks (8.8%)

The picture across Great Britain

As at the end of December, average vacancy in Great Britain stood at 14.2% – down slightly on a year ago (figure 1).

Figure 1. GB shop vacancy rate 2008-2012

National and Regional variations.

This survey of shop vacancy has seen something of a turning point. For the last three years vacancy has been getting worse pretty much everywhere except London and the inner South East. Over 2012, this has changed. Vacancy at a Great Britain level has decreased slightly from 14.3% to 14.2% with decreases seen in London, East Midlands and Yorkshire. All the other regions saw a rise in vacancy, with the West Midlands seeing the largest rise.

  2012 2011
GB 14.2 14.3
     
England 13.9 14.2
Scotland 15.5 15.4
Wales 18.0 17.3
     
London 9.4 10.7
East Midlands 16.2 16.7
East of England 12.6 12.2
North East 18.7 18.1
North West 20.2 19.7
South East 13.0 12.7
South West 13.4 12.9
West Midlands 18.5 17.7
Yorkshire & The Humber 16.7 17.6

Figure 2. National and Regional shop vacancy

Performance by type of centre

Looking at other retail formats, shopping centres across the countries and regions saw vacancy rates between 13.5% and 17.5%. London was significantly lower at 7.5% whilst the West Midlands saw over 20%. Overall the Great Britain rate was 15.6%

Vacancy rates out of town are much lower with a Great Britain rate of just over 10%. In fact most of the regions and countries see rates between 5% and 7% but a few poor performers push up the average. Wales, Scotland, the North East and North West are the culprits here, all with vacancy rates over 10% and, in the case of Wales, nearly 12%. 

  Average Retail & Leisure Vacancy Rate % 2012
High Street- Large Centres 13.7%
High Street- Medium Sized 11.7%
High Street- Small Centres 9.2%
Shopping Centres 15.6%
Retail Parks 8.8%

Table 1. Average retail and leisure vacancy rate by type.

Performance by size of centre

Large centres (400+ shops)

The worst performing large centre at the end of 2012 was Stockport with a vacancy rate of 28.3%, closely followed by Walsall at 28%. Despite an improving situation for all centres, it is significant the top 25 worst performers are dominated by centres in the Midlands and North, the exception being Swansea at number six with a vacancy rate of 25.3%. 

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Cambridge 6.0 -0.4
Kingston-upon-Thames 6.8 -2.4
St. Albans 8.0 -0.2
York 8.4 -1.3
Salisbury 8.5 -0.2
Harrogate 8.6 -0.8
Central London 9.2 -2.0
Camden Town 9.4 0.1
Ealing 10.5 -1.0
West London 10.7 -0.3

Table 2. Best Large Centre Performers

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Stockport 28.3 -1.8
Walsall 28.0 1.1
Grimsby 26.8 -1.5
Bolton 26.6 3.5
Nottingham 26.0 -3.6
Swansea 25.3 1.7
Sheffield 25.1 1.8
Wolverhampton 25.0 -2.3
Preston 24.7 3.7
Middlesbrough 24.4 2.4

Table 3. Worst Large Centre Performers

Medium centres (200-399 shops)

Amongst the medium-sized centres, Dudley in the West Midlands is the worst performer with a year end shop vacancy rate of 32.4%. This is some way above Newport, South Wales in second place with 29.8% vacancy and Hartlepool with 28.9%. Again this list is populated mainly from the Midlands and North. The highest entries from the South East are Dover and Dartford with vacancy rates of 26.2% and 25.5% respectively.  

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
East Ham 3.8 -3.8
Canary Wharf 4.3 -5.0
Wood Green 4.7 -1.1
Stamford 5.1 -3.2
Solihull 5.2 -1.3
Bethnal Green 5.5 -5.0
Sevenoaks 5.6 0.9
Saffron Walden 5.9 -1.8
Windsor 6.1 -2.4
Chesterfield 6.2 -4.1

Table 4. Best Medium Centre Performers

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Dudley 32.4 3.0
Newport, Monmouthshire 29.8 1.9
Hartlepool 28.9 2.3
Oldham 28.7 2.4
Dewsbury 28.2 0.6
Blackburn 27.6 0.7
Altrincham 27.1 1.4
Stockton-on-Tees 26.8 -0.1
Dover 26.2 3.3
Dartford 25.5 -1.3

Table 5. Worst Medium Centre Performers

Small centres (50-199 shops)

The worst shop vacancy performance amongst the small centres at the end of 2012 was Morecambe, West End with a vacancy rate of 34.3%. Almost equally shocking was Eccles where year end vacancy stood at 33% and Margate where vacancy was 30.8% despite an improvement during the year. 

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Chalfont St. Peter 0.0 -6.0
Newquay 0.6 -6.3
Thame 0.8 -2.5
Stanmore 1.5 1.1
Raynes Park 1.8 -10.2
Reigate 1.8 -2.5
Rickmansworth 2.0 -2.2
Epping 2.2 -0.1
Bridport 2.3 0.7
Sherborne 2.4 -2.2

Table 6. Best Small Centre Performers

Town Shop Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
West End, Morecambe 34.3 0.6
Eccles 33.0 2.7
Margate 30.8 -5.3
Church Street, Runcorn 30.6 1.5
Fratton 30.0 8.9
Leigh Park 28.1 -8.3
Wandsworth 27.5 -3.2
Bootle 26.7 2.3
Middleton 24.9 0.5
Runcorn 24.4 -1.5

Table 7. Worst Small Centre Performers

Shop Vacancy Performance by 12 month change

Town Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Lee Green 14.8 -11.1
Raynes Park 1.8 -10.2
Gateshead 10.5 -10.0
Sidcup 9.2 -9.7
Esher 5.1 -7.6
Hendon 7.2 -7.8
Balaam Street, Plaistow 6.7 -7.6
Burton-upon-Trent 14.2 -4.6
Headingley 8.0 -7.5
Chorlton 6.7 -9.5

Table 6. Best Performers

Town Vacancy Rate % 12 Month Change
Upper Edmonton 18.0 9.9
Fratton 30.0 8.9
Lower Edmonton 24.3 7.8
Portobello Road, London 14.0 7.8
Northampton 21.3 6.0
All Saints 9.3 5.8
Slough 16.4 5.5
Dagenham 10.7 5.0
Camberwell 11.5 5.0
Great Yarmouth 19.6 5.0

Table 7. Worst Performers

Three year change (England only)

Based on the LDC key centres data for England, it is possible to plot a three year change in vacancy. The North West takes the top seven worst performing centres. Only seven centres out of the top twenty worst performers were outside the Midlands and the North. 

Region Centre 3 year change %
North West Bootle 25.4
North West Runcorn 24.4
North West Barrow-in-Furness 22.1
North West Church Street, Runcorn 22.0
North West Blackburn 22.0
North West Altrincham 20.9
North West Bury 19.9
Yorkshire & the Humber Grimsby 18.9
London Lower Edmonton 18.1
North West West End, Morecambe 17.4

Table 8. Worst three year change

Region Centre 3 year change %
London Lee Green -14.3
North East Gateshead -12.5
South West Ashley Down -10.9
London Brixton -10.7
London Caledonian Road -10.0
London Clapham -8.1
London Battersea -7.3
East Midlands Chesterfield -6.6
London Ruislip Manor -6.5
North East Whitley Bay -6.3

Table 9. Best three year change

Summary

The end of 2012 sounded the death knell for a number of high street retailers, foremost amongst them HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster. The out of town market had already suffered the collapse of Comet earlier in the year. While there were long-standing question marks over the basis of the former three, Comet was a casualty of faltering demand for electricals based on declining disposable income. Paradoxically, Comet’s failure may well prove to be the lifeline for other players in that space as the economy begins to improve.

Vacancy at a Great Britain level decreased slightly from 14.3% to 14.2%, with decreases seen in London, East Midlands and Yorkshire & The Humber. All the other regions saw a rise in vacancy, with the West Midlands seeing the largest rise, with its vacancy rate rising from 17.7% to 18.5%. Some of the worst performing centres, Margate for example, saw a significant drop in vacancy in the second half of the year, which has to be good news.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at The Local Data Company, said: “Vacancy at a Great Britain level decreased slightly from 14.3% to 14.2%, with decreases seen in London, East Midlands and Yorkshire & The Humber. All the other regions saw a rise in vacancy, with the West Midlands seeing the largest rise. Some of the worst performing centres, Margate for example, saw a significant drop in vacancy in the second half of the year, which has to be good news.

“The picture is one of increasing polarization of performance between town centres, shopping centres and retail parks in every part of the country. Online is driving growth for a majority of retailers and so 2013 is all about the supporting role that shops will have as ‘customer experience’ centres and showrooms as much as transactions through their tills. Inevitably this means fewer shops will be required as our net closures data shows, and as such one can expect this divergence in performance to grow. Secondary shopping centres are coming to the fore in this respect.

“The big unknown is how technology will continue to channel and mould consumer spending habits and to what effect as bricks as clicks take the lead role?  The pressure between online and rising costs of running a shop on the high street due to rents, rates and parking charges, is likely to become an increasingly hot topic.”