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Number of vacant High Street stores continue to rise

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by Kay Mitchell

Research by the British Property Federation Retail Summit has revealed that the some British towns are turning into ghost towns as shoppers continue to avoid the High Street, in favour of online shopping.

A recent study by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) and shopping comparison website Kelkoo, found that UK shoppers spent more online than anywhere else in Europe in 2009.

The research showed that UK consumers spent £38 billion online last year (the equivalent of €1,240 (£1,070) per shopper) and accounted for almost a third of all European sales.

According to the CRR, online sales now account for almost 10% of total retail sales in the UK.

Meanwhile, analysts at the BPF said Margate in Kent topped the list with the highest proportion of empty retail premises – with 27.2% of shops boarded up.

Meanwhile, shopping centres in the North East and Midlands also suffered with 23.9% of shops vacant in Wolverhampton. Bradford, Middlesborough and Sheffield were closely behind.

The Federation warned that the average British high street is battling with a lack of investment, despite the number of store openings rising in the latter half of 2009.

Commenting on the figures, Liz Peace, chief executive of the Federation, said: “Internet shopping has fundamentally changed the face of retail and this has been the first recession to coincide with the web revolution.

“With that in mind, it’s vital that council planners act to change the ‘use class’ (which defines what a property can be used for) of shops so that as high streets contract we’re not left with communities scarred by recession,” she added.

The recession has meant consumers have tightened their purse strings, which, in turn, has had a devastating affect on trade.

The iconic department store, Woolworths, collapsed under a mountain of debt at the end of 2008, while other big names that went bust shortly after included furniture retailer MFI, music and games retailer, Zavvi, The Officer’s Club and Whittard of Chelsea.

This week, discount clothing retailer Ethel Austin entered administration for the second time in two years.

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News posted: February 11, 2010

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