Towns beating rest of UK with fewer empty shops

Sharon Clarke
Sharon Clarke

TOWNS in the region are performing better than the national average with fewer shops lying empty, research has revealed.

A report on town centre vacancy rates across the UK, published last week, indicates a UK-wide average of 14 per cent for the first half of 2013.

But towns in the Herald and Gazette patch are performing better, with levels well below average.

The top-performing town is Littlehampton, with a vacancy rate of just 2.5%.

A three-way partnership between Arun District Council, Littlehampton Town Council and Littlehampton Traders’ Partnership, has helped to reduce vacancy rates in recent years.

A spokesperson for Arun District Council said: “We have worked very hard to keep our town centre vacancies low, by working in partnership with Littlehampton Traders Partnership and Littlehampton Town Council.

“Our efforts to keep the town a clean and safe place for shoppers to visit have also paid off.”

The town has a large proportion of independent traders, which has minimised the impact of a number of major brands going under.

The spokesperson said: “A high percentage of our businesses are independent traders, so we have been less affected by the closing of large chain stores.

“Although the two largest vacancies at present are due to the closure of Dorothy Perkins and Blockbuster, we already have two companies who will shortly be taking on these leases.”

Worthing town centre is also well below average, with 8.9 per cent of shops standing empty.

The latest figure is at one of the lowest levels for three years.

The Guildbourne Centre, in Worthing town centre, has around one in five units vacant.

But recently announced plans for a gym, dental practice and other ongoing discussions will reduce the percentage.

Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said the figures were encouraging, but there was more work required for some problem areas.

She said: “Worthing continues to be a great place to trade, and it has been really encouraging to see so many new businesses opening, or about to open.

“There is still work to do in roads like Chapel Road and Portland Road, but Worthing is attracting some fantastic new businesses, which is continuing to improve the retail offer of the town.”

Worthing Borough Council cabinet member Bryan Turner also pointed to strong statistics for industrial units, with a 40 per cent decrease in empty units since 2008.

He said: “It is pretty pleasing, but I believe we also need to focus on the wider economy, getting people into jobs, so existing shops have a fighting chance.”

Adur and Worthing councils were unable to provide up-to-date statistics, however, 2012 levels show Shoreham with a vacancy rate of 4.5 per cent, and Lancing with 10 per cent empty.